BY SARAH GREGORY
Budget development for fiscal year 2013-2014 is well under way in the Town of Greeneville, but there is still quite a bit of work to do to achieve a balanced budget as revenue is expected to be down this year and expected to remain flat next year.
Members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen held their first budget meeting Tuesday following their regular meeting in the G. Thomas Love Boardroom at the Greeneville Light & Power System building.
City Administrator Todd Smith said at the meeting's start that "My goal, as you know, is to get a budget passed by June 30 -- a balanced budget."
Department heads from the Police and Fire Departments, Human Resources, and the Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center then spoke to the board to present their first budget projections for the coming year.
POLICE DEPT. BUDGET
The main difference in the Greeneville Police Department's budget for the coming year is related to the addition of four school resource officers (SROs).
The primary increase for the SROs is in salaries, which comes to a combined projected $124,100 for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, 2013.
Additional costs for the SROs are expected to be:
* $7,000 for uniforms, vests, and guns; and,
* $15,000 in training, including a specialized SRO school.
Chief Terry Cannon said the cost to add the SROs in the Greeneville City School System is a bit less than originally expected, because police cruisers that are taken out of the fleet can be used by the SROs.
"That'll make it a little over $100,000 cheaper just by taking the old cars and not taking the lights and stuff off of them," Cannon said.
Overall, in this first projection, the Police Department budget is up approximately 5.5 percent to $3,120,517.90, which includes the funds needed for the SROs.
"A lot of that -- most of that [increase]," Smith said, "is due to police cars, cruisers."
"They had not been in the budget in the past," Cannon said. "We put them in the budget, but they're still going to be coming out of the equipment [costs]."
Alderman Darrell Bryan, who is chairman of the Town's Budget and Finance Committee, expressed concern about an increase in the department's budget.
"When you look at the revenues of the town," he said, "we're actually behind last year. Any department right now that has an increase, we have a problem.
"If the police department is going to have more money, someone else is going to have to have less, because I don't think we can increase our budget from last year," he continued.
"We're actually behind in revenues, just a tad. I'm talking about the overall town. I'm not picking on you," he said to Cannon.
"If we see increases in each budget request, we're going to be spinning our wheels up here until we get a line on that," Bryan said.
STATE FUNDS AVAILABLE?
As discussion continued, it was pointed out that it is still unclear whether state funding will be made available for the SRO program.
Developments on the state level could significantly affect the department's budget, and, as the board members pointed out, it's simply too early to know what sort of legislation related to school safety, if any, will succeed.
"We just don't know what to do with SROs [right now]," said Smith.
"There's nothing wrong with what Terry [Cannon] is saying [in his budget proposals]. I just don't think we have enough information yet," Bryan said.
"That's part of the reason, sometimes, that we don't get our budget done by June 30 -- because we're waiting to see what the state's going to do."
Discussion about the Police Department budget then centered around various equipment costs, such as costs for various telephones, mobile phones and computers used by officers, and purchase of ammunition that must be done this year.
The department did not purchase ammunition last year. This year's purchase is expected to total approximately $17,000.
FIRE DEPARTMENT BUDGET
Greeneville Fire Chief Mark Foulks also presented his budget projection.
Similar to the Police Department's budget, Foulks observed, "The bulk of the salary increases are in step increases for employees. We haven't had any new turnover of employees or employees retiring or leaving."
Step increases are increases in salaries for employees when they reach specific milestones in their careers.
The salary line item increase for the Greeneville Fire Department is expected to increase to $1,971,916 for fiscal year 2014. That figure is up just over $44,000 from the current budget year.
The only other significant increase, Foulks said, is a request for replacement of a staff vehicle.
"We had requested it in last year's budget, and it was pulled," he said.
Foulks is requesting funds to replace the 2001 Chevrolet Blazer the Fire Marshal drives with a newer vehicle.
The Blazer would then be used as a department vehicle for firefighters to use when traveling to events, such as schools, where they provide safety classes.
With the firefighters using the Blazer for that purpose, an older 1998 Buick could then be retired from the fleet.
"Other than that, a lot of the line items are cut," Foulks said.
Specifically, training costs are down. Foulks said that none of the department's personnel require emergency medical technician training, which costs approximately $6,000 per individual and has been undertaken in years past.
"We've cut down on fuel usage by conducting our training online, and video conferencing," Foulks said.
"My question, again," Bryan said, "is, you've got increases of 70-some-thousand dollars. If we're talking about a possibly zero increase in budget, we've got to get it down somehow. It's going to have to come from somewhere."
Smith pointed out that the Fire Department budget has a 3.2 percent increase, a total of $71,704, of which $44,000 is in the form of step increases. The overall budget is projected to be $2,252,402 for fiscal year 2014.
"Can we find some cuts? Yeah, we can," Smith said.
"Like I said, I don't know if we're going to have an option," Bryan responded. "If we had to cut back to where we were [this year], can you do that?"
"It will be very difficult because of the step raises," Foulks pointed out.
After continued discussion, Smith said, "I'm hearing the trend, and I think that you want us to come present a budget to you with flat increases for each department?" he asked Bryan.
"Unless revenue increases, I don't see how you can have one without the other," Bryan responded.
Human Resources Director Patsy Fuller presented a proposed $70,675 budget for fiscal year 2014.
Of that amount, $10,250 is set aside for travel and training, which Fuller said she felt was "a lot," but she noted it would be reduced by more than $4,000 next year, because Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) training is included this year.
Nearly $3,700 of the training amount, Smith pointed out, is for Municipal Management Academy (MMA) classes.
"We can look ahead on coming down on that next year," Fuller said. "I can see that coming down."
"Human Resources, obviously, being a new department," Bryan said, "we're not sure where we're going. What might be advantageous there is for you to project some things like one, two, or three years."
Bryan added, "We recognize there are going to be some additional expenses. I think the Board and the Budget Committee recognize that. "
One thing that affects the Human Resources budget, Smith pointed out, is a recent decision to conduct drug-screens in-house rather than through a third party.
The Town has been paying nearly $40 per drug-screen in the past. Now, because of Fuller's extensive experience in drug-testing, the Town can purchase the drug-testing kits and have Fuller administer the tests for as little as $8 each.
Other departments will remove drug-test costs from their budgets. Those costs will then be recalculated and added to Fuller's Human Resources budget.
ROBY CENTER BUDGET
Glenda Blazer, director of the Roby-Fitzgerald Adult Center, presented a $301,399 budget projection for fiscal year 2014.
That amount represents a decrease of more than $36,567 from the current budget year.
"That's all we need to know. Have a good evening!" joked Mayor W.T. Daniels.
The decrease, Blazer said, is due to a change in the transportation line item.
"We have saved a lot of money this past year, and we're going to save some more this year," Blazer said.
The center is experiencing a savings by providing free transportation to and from the center.
Blazer indicated that the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability provides funding to cover the transportation costs.
Alderman Sarah E.T. Webster pointed out that Smith will be meeting with each of the department heads to discuss the specifics of each department's requests and identify necessities.
"I'm going to have them prioritize what can be cut," Smith said.
Bryan agreed, saying, "I don't think it's our job to tell them what to cut, but we can control how much we spend."
"If you're telling us to keep the budget even," Smith said, "we'll go back and put a fine pencil to everything."
"What Darrell [Bryan] is talking about is called a revenue-based budget," Mayor Daniels said. "How much money comes in determines how much you're going to spend," he added.
"I think on first go around, we're pretty close here, really."