Will Face Cuts To
By AMY ROSE
The Greeneville government's latest proposed budget includes funds to allow for the reinstatement of two school resource officers (SROs) after revisions made Tuesday at a workshop of the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The Greeneville government's latest proposed 2008-09 budget totals $21.25 million.
The city board on Tuesday also heard
detailed explanations of the city government's investments and health insurance coverage.
The four-hour workshop attended by about 15 city officials, was the third such budget workshop since new Mayor Laraine King took office last month.
"We know we've got a challenging year ahead of us," Mayor King said, adding that she knows Greeneville officials will pull together to work through an economic downturn that hopefully will improve next year.
After the board spent about three-and-a-half hours reviewing the proposed budget, Recorder Jim Warner asked for direction on what items should be funded and where cuts should be made.
Priority was placed on salaries for two police patrolmen, which, according to Police Chief Terry Cannon, will allow the two school resource officers (SROs) to resume their duties at Greeneville High School and Greeneville Middle School.
After feedback from the aldermen, Warner went to his office, where he spent about 30 minutes making revisions to the proposed budget.
He then returned to the board room with a new proposed budget that was balanced at $21,251,447.
He said he was able to make adjustments to revenues to find enough funds for the two police salaries.
The two salaries, totaling nearly $61,000, were added by Warner without using any reserve funds or without raising the city's property tax rate, he said.
Warner noted that he will have to make further adjustments to add benefits for the two salaries, which he said this morning will total $22,750.
Police Chief Cannon said his department has a shortage of four officers after three retirements and a recent resignation.
Because of the shortage, Cannon had reassigned the SROs to their regular patrol duties in the police department to keep the eight-man shifts fully staffed and to ensure safety of the officers, he said.
Although he is four officers short, Cannon said the police department could function with only two more officers to fill the slots currently being filled by the officers who had been serving as SROs.
Director of Schools Dr. Lyle Ailshie said at a previous budget workshop on Aug. 15 that the lack of SROs has been the top concern he has heard from parents this year.
In an interview this morning, Ailshie expressed thanks to the city board for understanding that the SROs are a high priority for the school system and parents.
He also thanked Chief Cannon for working with the school system to provide the SROs.
Ailshie said he felt "a sense of relief" to know that the officers will be returning to the schools. "It's great to know that now we're going to have those back," he said.
Ailshie said the SROs have been a proactive deterrent for preventing problems in the schools.
"We're very serious about the safety of our students," he said.
Gary Ball, a member of the Greeneville Civil Service Board, spoke briefly and asked if there is a hiring freeze in the police department. He said the Civil Service Board has been working on testing for promotions in the police department.
Before Warner's adjustments were made, Mayor King noted that the funds for the two police salaries could have come from the $80,000 the city is budgeting for a new school bus.
She said the bus was ordered by the Greeneville City School System with the assumption that city would pay for it, but the bus being replaced could be used for another three years.
Warner asked the board if property taxes should be increased or if reserve funds should be used to fund the two police salaries.
Alderman Sarah Webster asked how much of a property tax increase would be required to fund the two police salaries.
Warner said one cent would generate $44,000, so a 2-cent increase would be required.
Alderman W.T. Daniels said reserve funds should be used to fund the two salaries. "Whatever we have to do, that has to be funded," Daniels said.
Other City Departments
The workshop began with fairly brief reviews of the budgets for the Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center, the Building Department, the Greeneville-Greene County Landfill/Transfer Station and the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library.
Glenda Blazer, executive director of the Roby Center, said her proposed budget had been cut $4,000 since the first budget workshop.
The $4,000 was cut from the center's line item for trips, Blazer noted.
Alderman Daniels asked if Glenda could increase fees for those trips. She replied that the fees recently were increased from $2 a year to $5 a year.
Jim Snyder, building official, said that his department might need funding for an additional employee if the "Rediscover Greeneville" project for downtown redevelopment progresses.
Zip Wright, landfill manager, said $150,000 to $160,000 had been cut from his line item for equipment, and about $100,000 had been cut for landfill improvements.
Alderman Nancy Monger asked Wright if he has made any adjustments after a recent series of burglaries at the landfill. Wright, who noted that there has been three burglaries in the past eight weeks, replied that all doors at the landfill are being equipped with dead-bolt locks.
Madge Walker, executive director of the library, said the Greene County Commission's Records Committee had voted to ask the city to pay for half the cost of a microfilm reader printer, $3,500. Mayor King said the funds were not in the proposed budget, but they would be added.
Alderman Webster said the funds could be allocated for the new printer if adjustments are made to the remodeling of the Greeneville Light & Power System auditorium for a city courtroom and board room.
Janet Malone, chairman of the Greeneville-Greene County Airport Authority, said that since the last budget workshop she received numerous phone calls with concerns about the board's commitment to funding the runway realignment project at the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport.
Mayor King reminded Malone that the board previously voted for the Airport Authority to work with the city and county to find funds for the project.
The city's portion of the first phase would be $160,000, which originally was in the city's capital improvement budget, but was removed during the Aug. 15 workshop.
Warner explained that traditionally the city has not paid for airport improvement projects from its general fund.
He said the Airport Authority's revenue stream is normally used to secure bonds for such projects.
Warner said the city has approved a resolution stating that it will cover the $160,000 if the Airport Authority cannot pay the payments on the bond.
Malone noted that the Airport Authority already is paying on two bonds for sewer improvements and T-hangar construction at the airport.
The board made cuts to several agencies that request annual funding from the city, including a $25,000 reduction from $85,000 to $60,000 for the Greene County Partnership.
Warner noted that the Partnership, along with the Dickson-Williams Association, Main Street: Greeneville and Keep Greene Beautiful, had not made a request this year, which he assumed was an oversight.
The board cut in half funding for:
* the Dickson-Williams Association, from $15,000 to $7,500;
* the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, from $5,000 to $2,500; and
* the Volunteer Center, from $2,000 to $1,000.
The board did not honor requests for funding of:
* the Child Advocacy Center;
* the Imagination Library;
* the Second Harvest Food Bank; and
* the local Food Bank of the Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries.
Before the cuts were made, Warner said he had $10,000 available for all seven of the above agencies.
Alderman Webster asked for a list of all agencies funded by the city and details of what services the city provides for those agencies.
Alderman Ginny Kidwell asked for a detailed list of what was budgeted for 2007-08 and what actually was spent.
Accountant Carol Susong provided the list during the workshop.
The aldermen took copies of the revised proposed budget prepared by Warner.
A called board meeting was schedule at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, to consider the budget on first reading.
A second and final reading is tentatively scheduled during the board's first regular meeting in September, which will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2.