BY SARAH GREGORY
Department heads for the Town of Greeneville are getting the message from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen loud and clear: revenue projections for fiscal year (FY) 2014 are not expecting much growth, so don't expect much in the way of budget increases.
So far, department heads are complying with the marching orders -- making cuts to as many areas of their budgets as possible while still taking into account rising fuel and equipment costs.
Aldermen met in the board room at Town Hall on Thursday afternoon to review budget proposals for several departments.
The board previously reviewed budgets prepared for the police department, fire department, human resources department, and Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center.
Earlier board discussions indicated that aldermen were looking for a revenue-based budget that took low growth projections for FY 2014 into account.
"The message I took back [to department heads] from the board at that time was 'Thanks for the budgets, but we need to see flat numbers from FY 2013 going over to FY 2014,'" City Administrator Todd Smith said at the start of the meeting.
"I understand the feedback from the board, looking at the revenues," he said.
"I do want to say this -- that makes it very challenging when gas prices are rising, we have step salary increases that are automatic, and other costs are rising," he continued.
"When you say 'a flat budget,' it's going to impact some services probably."
Greeneville's department heads deserve a "great amount" of credit for going through their budgets carefully and "making the tough decisions," Smith said.
"They've basically come back with a flat budget for each department."
Public Works Director Brad Peters crafted two budgets -- two different scenarios that take into account pending changes at the Greeneville-Greene County Transfer Station and Demolition Landfill.
"We're still not really sure what's going to happen at the Transfer Station," Peters said.
"The first [scenario] was assuming that we haul [solid waste] directly to TIDI Waste [in Morristown], and that budget realized close to $100,000 in savings for my department," he told the board.
"So I added an employee that we would have to have since our garbage routes would be longer," he explained.
The line item for operations and vehicles also requires adjustment under that scenario.
In total, the proposed Public Works and Municipal Solid Waste Fund budget that assumes the Town will begin hauling garbage directly to Morristown is $3.63 million.
The other scenario assumes that the transfer station will remain open, with the contracted company transporting solid waste from the transfer station to TIDI Waste in Morristown.
That budget totals $3.72 million. Of that number, $1.58 million would be designated for line items related to solid waste management.
The remaining $2.13 million would be used for Public Works categories such as street repair and maintenance, street signs and lighting, the Town's garage, street cleaning, and garbage collection.
After several minutes, board discussion centered around the need to determine what would happen with the transfer station before aldermen can be certain how to proceed with the Public Works budget.
Mayor W.T. Daniels told the board that, originally, the county was hoping to be prepared to cease using the transfer station by June 30. However, Daniels said, it seems that that target date will not be met.
As discussions continued, aldermen realized that, because of the different funds used to hold money related to Public Works and the Municipal Solid Waste programs, under either scenario, that department's budget was within $30,000 in terms of impact on the general fund.
Town Recorder Carol Susong presented her proposed FY 2014 budget, which is $36,767 less than the FY 2013 budget.
The total proposed amount is $328,680.
A primary change in that budget, however, does not relate to funds.
Susong and Smith propose that two departments previously referred to as the Recorder and Accounting departments in the budget be combined under the title of Finance Department, beginning with FY 2014.
"It would just be simpler," Susong said. "When I think of the Recorder's office, it is the finance office."
Some issues handled in the Recorder's office in years past have now been delegated out of that department with the creation of a Human Resources Department and the switch to the Administrator form of government, Susong said.
The Recorder's Office has also taken on payroll responsibilities, so referring to it as the Finance Department simply makes more sense, Susong and Smith indicated.
Also discussed in the Finance Department budget was $26,790 earmarked for capital improvement projects in the form of software upgrades and a new scanner system.
That system, similar to systems used by Greeneville Light & Power System, the Greeneville City Schools, and the Greeneville Water Department, will drastically reduce the amount of paper used in Susong's office.
"It's an enormous amount of paper that we generate," she said.
Currently, Susong said, her area is stacked with thick binders filled with paper.
"We're running out of room," she said.
The move over the long term would likely also reduce supply costs for items such as paper, binders, and staples.
Susong says the change would also be beneficial to the auditing process and would increase efficiency.
Expansion of the paperless system is something Smith said would be helpful in other departments in the future as well.
"I think this organization makes a lot of sense," said Alderman Sarah E.T. Webster. Other members of the board indicated agreement.
PARKS AND RECREATION
Parks and Recreation Director Butch Patterson's FY 2014 budget is only $12 different from his FY 2013 budget.
The 2014 number is listed as $915,316.
In FY 2013, $81,050 was dedicated to pools. For FY 2014, that number will likely be reduced to $67,100.
Patterson's budget absorbed the difference, however, as he calculated his budget to take rising fuel and other costs into account.
A number of capital improvement projects were cut from the original proposed Parks and Recreation budget.
Items not budgeted but needed include a new dog and disc golf park, new fencing at the maintenance shop and Legion Field, renovation of a field at Hardin Park used by the Greeneville High School girls' softball team, a new roof at Hardin Park Pool, a new heat pump in the Parks and Recreation board room, a travel stipend for youth ball teams qualifying for state and regional play, and a new truck.
The Parks and Recreation budget includes a $9,500 match for Recreation Trail Program grant funds that will create walking trails that connect downtown to the Forest Park area and the Takoma Regional Hospital campus.
Patterson said spending the $9,500 would bring $120,000 in grant funds to the Town for the project.
The total cost is $144,500. Patterson said Takoma Regional Hospital is providing $15,000 for the project.
Smith reviewed the Mayor and Aldermen budget just prior to the meeting's adjournment.
That budget contains funds for the board's salaries, travel, training, supplies, and office equipment.
The total Mayor and Aldermen budget for FY 2014 was proposed as $13,400, a decrease from 2013's $16,450 amount.
Of the $13,400 proposed, $9,900 would pay the mayor and all four aldermen's salaries for FY 2014.
Another $1,000 would be designated for supplies.
A total of $2,500 would be used for travel and training.
Those funds would cover such items as Municipal Management Academy, the Benchmarking program and other training events.
The budget process will continue, with reviews of more departmental budgets at later meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The board aims to have a balanced budget completed by June 30.