BY O.J. EARLY
City Administrator Todd Smith has focused on being realistic about Greeneville's finances for the coming year.
"This is a challenging budget year," he said following Tuesday's town budget hearing after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
"We are down on our revenues -- we are down from what we collected last year at the same point. It's a challenging year," Smith said in an interview with The Greeneville Sun.
As a result of the financial situation, the message from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to town department leaders has been consistent and clear: don't ask for more funding, and cut anywhere you can.
There have been only two exceptions, Smith said -- the Greeneville Police Department and the Human Resources Department.
The police department increased its budget as a result of officers' being placed at all city schools for security reasons, and the Human Resources Department was revamped, Smith said.
PARTNERSHIP TAKES HIT
If Smith's proposed budget were passed today, the Greene County Partnership would be the agency that would take the biggest hit.
The Partnership requested $85,000 in funding from the town for the coming fiscal year. Smith is currently proposing $60,000, a difference of $25,000.
"We like to think of the funds you give us as an investment. We like to be measured by that," said Tom Ferugson, president/CEO of the Partnership, who spoke at the budget hearing Tuesday. "If we get the job done for you, we want to be rewarded."
In short, funding the Partnership is a win for Greeneville, Ferguson said.
He cited what he says are the many successes of the Partnership, including the recruitment of US Nitrogen and the expansion at Huf-Tennessee.
Ferugson now plans to raise $25,000 annually from the private sector, he said at the meeting, and hopes to eventually get $125,000 a year from the Town of Greeneville.
In years past, Greeneville funded the Partnership at $125,000 before dropping the amount to $85,000. The Partnership received $50,000 from the Town last year.
Mayor W.T. Daniels said the board would like the Town to again fund the partnership at $85,000.
"Realistically, it would be difficult to get that [$85.000]," Smith said Wednesday.
Other departments and agencies expected to receive less than their requested amount: the Parking Authority, Civil Service Board, the Dickson-Williams Historical Association, Middle Nolichuckey Watershed Alliance, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, Keep Greene Beautiful and Main Street: Greeneville.
The Greeneville City School System has yet to set its budget, but is expected to do so today, Smith said.
Smith would like to see the overall town budget passed by June 30. Until then, department heads must work to not increase their budgets, he said.
"There are some glimmers of optimism out there," Smith said. "If you look at the country as a whole, there are some positive feelings about the economy turning around."
An improving housing market and a lower national unemployment rate are examples, he said.
"From a national perspective, the economy is moving forward," Smith added. "We just haven't seen it yet in Greeneville."