By Jim Young
Interim City Manager Jack Miller has been working to get up to speed on the city's 2013-14 budget since he took over following the resignation of the previous city manager.
Miller presented a report on the budget and some of his recommendations to the council at the May 7 work session. Miller described the mission of the current budget work as “Restoration and revitalization of the operational and fiscal integrity of Crossville” According to Miller, “The revenue streams of city government are consistently showing signs of recovery.”
Miller continued, “The governance leadership must continue its program of fiscal conservatism in order for the city to accomplish its primary mission of maintaining a progressive, accountable and efficient government entity.”
While Miller's report mentions no increase in property tax, he does state that a special property tax of ten cents for a sanitation services or a fee of $10 a month for residential property should be considered. During discussion of Miller's proposal, Mayor J.H. Graham indicated that most constituents he talked to felt there should be no extra charge for garbage service and a property tax increase would be a more acceptable way of funding the city's increased expenses.
Miller says that most of the estimated revenues coming into the city coffers will not change and will be budgeted as they have including sales tax, state shared taxes and other revenues. Certain expenses have been increased including postage, fuel due to growth and cost trends. Three percent increases have been figured into other consistently reoccurring expenses.
Miller has recommended that most of the non-profit agencies face a substantial reduction in their funding. Those changes would have to be approved by the council.
The initial budget had a 2 percent employee pay increase factored in but based on recommendations of councilman Pete Souza employees earning less than $40,000 would receive a 4 percent increase while employees earning over $40,000 would receive a 2 percent increase. Health insurance expenses will be budgeted with a 10 percent increase.
Other budget considerations Miller discussed include a change in how deprecation is handled on repair work that the city does its self. According to Miller, it could save $1.2 million combined in the general and utility funds.
Additional savings to the general fund will come as administrative costs are being shared between the utility fund and the general fund as 11 employees work in both areas. Funds from the utility department would help pay partial salary expenses reducing the general fund budget.
Mayor Graham said he wanted to see funds in the budget for the local portion of an additional SRO officer for Martin Elementary if the city receives the grant they are seeking. Graham also felt that the street department may need to adjust their plans on paving by reducing the amount budgeted. The result would be a repaving schedule based on need and use.
Another item Graham felt the city should strongly consider putting in the budget funds to build a spec industrial building. A spec building is basically a shell building that can be quickly customized to the needs of a specific buyer much more quickly than starting from vacant property. Graham added that he expected the new president of the Chamber of Commerce will want something to show to prospective industries.
The mayor also wanted the Main Street improvement project in the budget and asked the manager and finance director Fred Houston to put together an additional three years of projected budget performance beyond the next fiscal year in order to give council members a comfort level of how the city could make the payments on the projects loans.
Councilman Pete Souza proposed that each department reduce the number of vehicles under 1 ton by 10 percent. While it would not reduce costs by a total of 10 percent as other vehicles would be utilized more, he said the overall savings in those areas would be between 4 and 6 percent. Both the street department and the water department agreed that they could reduce their number of vehicles and still get their work done.