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BY LAUREN HENRY
Long-term financial planning is at the top of the Town of Greeneville's priorities, according to discussion at the Town's strategic planning session on Wednesday.
"I think it is quite appropriate that something long-term financially is the biggest goal for us today," City Administrator Todd Smith said.
The day-long session was held in the conference room at the Clyde Austin 4-H Center's new lodge to brainstorm a preliminary mission statement and strategies for the town of Greeneville's future.
The mission statement is still in the works, as reported in Thursday's article, "A Mission Statement Turns Into A Challenge."
However, three goals and strategies for improvement were proposed:
1) "Use our strong financial well-being to develop a long range capital plan to help with our aging infrastructure," as presented by Parks and Recreation Department Director Butch Patterson.
2) "Develop a coordinated effort to enhance retail, residential and entrepreneur opportunities downtown," as presented by Smith.
3) "Revise ordinances," as presented by Public Works Director and Town Engineer Brad Peters.
Millie Callaway, a consultant for training and development with the economic development division of TVA, assumed the role of facilitator, to guide the discussion.
The gathered major government officials -- primarily the members of the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and several Town department heads -- analyzed Greeneville's strengths and weaknesses, brainstormed opportunities for influence, and talked about what they believe threatens these opportunities.
The brainstorming session resulted in a series of proposed goals and strategies, which the officials informally voted for in order of priority.
The three goals listed above are the result of the informal vote.
1. CAPITAL PLAN
The goal of developing a long-range capital plan was in the works before Wednesday's planning session.
According to Smith, the town has been operating with a short-sighted budget plan in the past. The budget covered day-to-day operating costs but failed to adequately plan for long-range capital investment needs.
Ashley C. McAnulty with Stephens Inc., an investment banking company, attended Wednesday's planning session. He presented options for funding capital needs.
The town has some capital needs expenditures proposed for the future, including replacing each of the fire trucks that date back to the 1980s, replacing the EastView pool to reduce labor, water, and equipment costs, and purchasing a garbage front-loader. The capital needs also include infrastructure updates such as street repair.
The goal is to take the time to create the financial planning so the town can fund the projects using money from "operating revenues," or out of the fund balance budget. It is the option that McAnulty described as "pay-as-you-go," and is the preferred option.
Smith, the city administrator, presented the town officials with a proposed plan to make this a viable option.
His proposed fund balance policy would seek to keep unassigned funds, or the fund balance which is kept on reserve for years of economic downturn, within a range of between 25 and 35 percent of the town's annual budget.
Additional revenue would be split between the fund balance and the capital funds.
The capital funds would fluctuate as additional revenue became available and as the money was utilized to address capital needs, which include infrastructure.
However, the fund balance would be kept stable at a preferred 35 percent. Once the town reaches the preferred percentage, it would require only the funds needed to maintain that percentage.
Currently the fund balance represents 28 percent of the Town of Greeneville budget, an amount which equates to about 3.4 months of the Town's annual budget.
The town also has two other payment options. The first would be to utilize any grants that come available.
According to Public Works Director and Engineer Brad Peters, beyond the day-to-day operating budget, watching for grants was how the town has funded some infrastructure needs in the past.
For example, last year the town replaced a culvert on Haynes Boulevard using money from a grant that the Middle Nolichuckey Watershed Alliance had procured.
The grant paid for the cost of materials, and the town only needed to provide the labor.
However, grants fluctuate from year-to-year, and McAnulty advised against relying on them solely.
The third option for funding is debt financing. This is an option that the town hopes to avoid by adequately planning for capital needs and utilizing grants as they come available.
2. ENHANCE DOWNTOWN
The second preliminary goal involves a coordinated town effort, according to Smith.
The town would like to enhance retail, residential and entrepreneurial opportunities downtown.
This, more than any of the other proposed plans, would involve public involvement and feedback.
An important element would be supporting the Walters State Community College expansion plan. Smith said this would bring much-needed revenue to the downtown.
"We will have to be ready to capture that," Smith said.
The town government's role in this is to provide public resources necessary to get enhancements moving along, he said.
Smith said it is the government's role to make sure infrastructure is not a roadblock.
The downtown enhancement will require coordination from private business, investors, education, the Greene County Partnership and others.
"It will truly take a community effort to implement," Smith said.
3. ORDINANCE REVIEW
Finally, government officials indicated Wednesday that reviewing and revising outdated ordinances is a priority for the town.
According to Smith and Peters, some ordinances exist that simply are not relevant now or that hinder efficiency.
Updating ordinances will help streamline the actual running of government, they said.
Smith said this is a long-range plan that will require a careful review of current ordinances with the legal assistance of City Attorney Ron Woods.
"It is something that we will have to live with for a long time so we want to take our time and get it right," Smith said.
"My recommendation is to take the top three [goals and strategies] and develop an action plan," Callaway advised during the planning session.
She gave the officials work sheets to help with the next steps of fleshing out each of the strategies indicated.
"I think at this point it is a good idea to get some public feedback and develop some goals and action items," Smith said at the close of the meeting.
He said he hopes to hold public meetings to inform the public of the town's plans.
"It is important to have the input of the elected leader to set the tone, but it is also important to get the public's feedback," he stated.
BEGAN IN 2010
According to Mayor W.T. Daniels the planning session held Wednesday is an expansion of the long-range planning that began Sept. 9, 2010, when town officials met to discuss changing the town charter and structure of government.
Daniels marks this date as when the town began to really take its future seriously and be proactive in planning.
"This is all new for the city, but it's heading in the right direction," he said.
The mayor said he wants to involve the public in the process of planning for the future.
He foresees setting time aside during Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings to inform the public about town planning.
"We [the citizens of the Town of Greeneville] need to know what's going on," he said.