The budget proposed by Mayor Doug Murphree for the year that began Oct. 1 ends with an $18,650 surplus, with total revenues of $13,190,129 and expenses of $13,171,479.
To reach this surplus, the budget uses about $800,000 from savings and cuts appropriations to most agencies by 10 percent. The Board of Education, SAFE Family Services and transportation were cut by just 5 percent. B.B. Comer Memorial Library and Parks and Recreation were level funded, but the city tentatively will not pay insurance premiums that total more than $20,000 for the two entities.
Murphree said he feels good about the proposal, though he said the city should remain cautious as it recovers from the $450,000 deficit of the previous year’s budget.
“We’re going to have to be careful in the upcoming year, and hopefully we won’t spend all that money out of our savings, because if we deplete that, we’ll be under the gun next year,” he said. “I think we’re going to be OK if we just spend wisely and don’t go overboard any.”
The budget cuts the purchase of new police cars for the year, but includes $25,000 for a new Code Enforcement vehicle. It also includes creation of a new accounting position in the City Clerk’s office to alleviate the Human Resources specialist of those duties.
As the council reviewed the budget, it agreed to remove the $7,500 allotted for mosquito spraying, and questioned the $90,000 appropriation to the Animal Rescue Foundation, among other issues.
While the budget includes essentially a 13 percent cut to ARF by excluding its utility expenses, Council President Rocky Lucas said he has “a hard time cutting the Board of Education $36,000 and continuing to fund ARF at $90,000.” Lucas suggested trimming ARF to around $50,000, a halfway point between the foundation’s three-year average appropriation and the current appropriation.
However, Councilman Tom Roberts said he would rather change the animal control ordinance to reduce the number of animals going to ARF instead of cutting its funding.
“But, we don’t know,” Lucas replied. “We’re just cutting them a check. We don’t know if they’re bringing in 1,000 dogs or 10.”
The council briefly considered what it would take to fund its own animal control, with Roberts suggesting it would cost significantly more than the $90,000 the city funds ARF.
“If we make drastic cuts in the budget this year, (ARF will) probably just hand us the keys, and it will be our little game to play,” Roberts said.
Murphree said the city “(needs) somehow to separate animal control and animal rescue. That’s what needs to happen.”
Lucas suggested councilmen think about that topic.
Other potential expenses discussed included funding the Commercial Development Authority, which has not been funded for several years, level funding the Boy’s Club, purchasing a street sweeper and other street equipment, and hiring a new police officer to enforce city ordinances. Lucas also suggested increasing the lodging tax, which is low for the area at 6 percent.
A second budgeting work session is today at 4 p.m. at City Hall.