The budget for the year ending Sept. 30, 2014, projects a $24,864 surplus; however, it achieves a surplus by cutting most appropriations 10 percent and utilizing more than $700,000 from savings to make debt payments.
“I think we did the best that we could with what we had to work with. We started out behind the eight ball this year,” Council President Rocky Lucas said, alluding to last year’s $412,000 deficit budget, though the city actually ended the year at only a $128,000 deficit.
“The city as a whole had a pretty good year as far as revenues, but like I said, we started behind the eight ball, and there are some things we just weren’t able to do this year, and that was evident by us spending quite a bit more time (on the budget) than I had originally thought,” he said. “Hopefully this time next year, we’ll be in a totally different boat.”
Roberts voted against the budget, which includes roughly $82,000 for creation of a human resources position and an additional police officer to serve as ordinance enforcement, because he “didn’t think it was a good idea for our budget priority to be growing the staff and payroll at City Hall, especially when adding staff meant having to make another round of cuts for things that should be helping us grow. Also, the budget doesn’t include the concrete plans we need to start seriously addressing the things that got neglected while the city budget was shrinking. The citizens weren’t patient with the last council, and they won’t be patient with us either.”
Mayor Doug Murphree said he is comfortable with the approved budget that has an additional $30,000 in anticipated revenue from the recent 3-cent lodging tax increase.
“I think it’s a good budget because it’s a balanced budget,” he said. “We had to make cuts because this budget was balanced by using some savings. As long as we can start with a balanced budget and are careful with unbudgeted expenses, we’ll be OK.”
As for appropriations, B.B. Comer Memorial Library and Parks and Recreation, both city entities, were level funded at $612,557 and $824,447, respectively; though they will absorb a 5-percent insurance increase, Murphree said. The Animal Rescue Foundation was also level-funded at $90,000, but will pay its own utilities and building expenses, equating to a 12-percent cut. Other level-funded appropriations were the Boys Club at $10,000 and Rescue Squad at $5,500.
All other agencies were cut 10 percent, including the Board of Education, which will receive $71,520 less than last year. Lucas, who had pushed for only a 5 percent BOE cut, said that is “the one thing I’m most disappointed about” in the budget.
“The mayor had originally proposed a 5 percent cut, and I was OK with that,” he said. “I understand there is a lack of funds, but I think it’s a travesty that the Board of Education continues to get cut. I consider it an investment in our community and out future, and it is my hope and desire that in future years, the Board of Education appropriation will be funded at a higher level.”
Overall, the budget projects revenues of $13,220,129 and expenses of $13,195,265. Contracts and appropriations total about $2.9 million, and city department expenses are about $10.1 million.
Compared to last year’s budget, total expenses are down about $364,000 and total revenues are increased $85,900.
Contact Emily McLain at email@example.com.