BY SARAH GREGORY
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen took a major step toward having a balanced budget passed by the target date of June 30 with unanimous approval of a more than $21.3 million budget on first reading Monday.
If the budget passes on second reading during a called meeting Friday morning, Greeneville can begin operating under it on day one of the new fiscal year -- July 1.
City Administrator Todd Smith commended aldermen for their work in the budget development process, which included a number of budget hearings with heads of departments and other organizations that receive appropriations from the Town.
At the Tuesday, June 18, meeting of the board, aldermen tasked Smith with reviewing revenue projections in hopes of finding a way to fund the purchase of three buses for the Greeneville City School System.
A review of revenue numbers provided by the state, Smith said, resulted in increased projections to a number of revenue sources.
"We went back and looked at our revenue projections, and we actually got to tweak those," he said.
Projections for property tax, beer tax, liquor tax, and state sales tax collections all saw increases, Smith reported.
RAISES, CAPITAL PROJECTS
Because of the projected increases, Smith proposed a few changes to expenditures.
Among those changes were an increase from a one percent to a two percent raise for Greeneville employees, a contribution to the Town's fund balance, and investment on capital projects, Smith said.
"I think at this point we could afford a two percent salary increase for the employees of the Town of Greeneville," he said.
That two percent, Smith added, would help Town employees keep up with rising cost of living expenses.
The increased revenue projections will allow Greeneville to place nearly $47,000 in the fund balance, Smith told the board.
"It's a very small contribution to [the] fund balance, but I think it starts a habit -- hopefully a good habit of us putting some money away to fund balance every year," he said.
Smith hopes that over time, Greeneville will be able to build its fund balance to account for approximately 35 percent of its total budget.
The projected increase in tax collections will also allow placement of almost $12,000 in an emergency capital fund in the event of unforeseen capital expenses, such as unexpected repairs that may arise, Smith said.
The Town will also be able to dedicate $35,000 to the replacement of a decades-old roof at the Community Center, currently used by the Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County.
Smith said the new roof is badly needed, as numerous repairs are made to it on a regular basis.
The $21,328,635 budget includes $5,514,395 for Greeneville City Schools.
Of that amount, $82,000 was not originally intended to be considered recurring funding, although Smith proposed that those funds be added as recurring funds for the coming years.
The money allowed the school system to hire a new teacher to remain in compliance with state mandates that dictate pupil/teacher ratios.
Another $5,471,265 is dedicated to public safety, which includes the police department, fire department, building inspection, civil defense, and emergency services, radio communication equipment, and other such expenses.
A total of $2,445,917 will go to the Public Works Department for purposes such as street repair, maintenance, and signs, street lighting and cleaning, garbage collection, and Town Hall maintenance.
Expenditures of $1,423,029 will go to debt service, which includes payments on bond and note principals and interest amounts, bond issuance, and debt administration.
In addition to passing the municipality's budget on first reading, aldermen also passed resolutions that appropriate funds to the Dickson-Williams Historical Association, the Greene County Partnership, and Keep Greene Beautiful, operated by the Greene County Partnership.
A total of $7,500 in funding for the Dickson-Williams Historical Association was approved unanimously with Alderman Sarah E.T. Webster abstaining.
Webster did not vote because she is chairman of that organization's board.
The Greene County Partnership will receive $68,000 in fiscal year 2014 -- an $8,000 increase over last year's appropriation. The resolution to provide the Partnership's funding passed unanimously.
Smith said he hopes the increase will be the first step toward restoring annual appropriations of $85,000 in years past.
He commended Greene County Partnership President and CEO Tom Ferguson for the organization's work in aiding expansions and job announcements at local industries.
A resolution to provide $8,000 in funding to the Partnership's Keep Greene Beautiful program also passed unanimously.
CERTIFIED TAX RATE
The board was unable to take action on the fiscal year 2014 budget as planned during their June 18 meeting because state certified tax rates were not yet available.
"We've gone through a reevaluation of our properties," Smith said, commenting on recent property reassessments.
"Our property values have actually decreased this year," he told the board.
State law requires that the tax rates remain revenue neutral, meaning that because the property values have gone down, the state certified property rate must go up to bring in the same amount of tax collections.
"The tax rate that we got from the state is $2.0453" per every $100 of taxable real estate and personal property, Smith said.
"For a typical homeowner, if the assessed value of that property decreases, then the actual tax paid, in theory, is going to be roughly the same," Smith explained.
"The out-of-pocket expense should be roughly the same even though our tax rate is actually increasing [per state law], it's due to the decreasing values of our properties in Greeneville," he continued.
"This is controlled by state law," Smith said, noting that it was not a tax increase being enacted by the board.
The state certified tax rate was approved unanimously.