Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 10, 2014

City charter, budget on council agenda

CROSSVILLE — A lot of business will come before the Crossville City Council during tonight's regular June council meeting, including final approval of the city budget and tax rate as well as the proposed charter change referendums that could, with voter approval, add term limits and a recall provision.

The regular council meeting begins at 6 p.m. with the audit committee meeting and two public hearings also on the schedule. The council's audit committee meets at 5 p.m., followed by a public hearing on the 2014-'15 budget at 5:30 and a public hearing on the annexation of a lot on Sunshine Road at 5:45 p.m.

During last week's work session, a possible private executive meeting prior to the audit committee meeting concerning the Tansi lawsuit was discussed. The city is currently in settlement conference talks.

While the city tax rate will remain at 53 cents, the budget will once again be in the red as the approval process moves forward. With revenues of $15, 953,030, expenses are at $16,316,468, leaving the budget in the red by $363,438. The city is estimated to end the current fiscal year with a general fund balance of $10,453,635, so the budget operating deficit will not substantially affect the city's financial position.

Some items could still come up during the discussion of the matter at the council meeting as no raises have been put in the budget for the current fiscal year. Councilman Pete Souza wanted to see a 3.5 percent raise given to city employees to show gratitude for their work.

City Manager David Rutherford said he was working on a salary survey with cities of comparable size. Those results showed that, with salary and benefit package combined, Crossville employees are in good shape. Rutherford said in the next year's budget he will ask for a 3.75 percent increase in the salary line, with 2.5 percent for cost of living increases and the additional 1.25 to correct some minor adjustments needed due to issues with some salaries.

A resolution to raise water and sewer rates slightly, based on a loan through the state revolving loan fund, is on the agenda. A typical household using 3,000 gallons of water/sewer monthly would see an increase of $1.08. The increase is 2 percent on water rates and 5 percent on sewer rates.

With action by the Tennessee General Assembly, the city is ready to move forward with changes to the city charter, including two matters that citizens will decide by referendum on the November city ballot. The two matters up for citizen decision include the addition of a provision for the recall of council members and a provision to add term limits to the city charter for council seats. The term limits would allow only two consecutive four-year terms to be served by any council member or mayor.

Councilman George Marlow said he felt the action, if approved, would take away a citizen's privilege to vote for who they want in office.

Marlow said, “I feel the voters should determine how long someone stays in office and, if they're not satisfied with someone, they can vote them out.” Marlow added that most offices do not have term limits and someone learns more the longer they are in office, like a long-term, experienced employee.

Souza spoke in favor of the action, saying that his constituents had overwhelmingly spoken to him in favor of term limits and he would continue to support them.

A group of charter clean up changes will be up for approval by the council and will go into the city charter upon approval, as those items will not come before the citizens in referendum. Most of those changes are required under state law.

A vote will be taken on a project that has been a long time in the planning stages. The Sidewalks to Schools program that will put sidewalks along Fourth S. and Myrtle Ave. has gone through a redesign and the city staff have estimated the cost of right of way acquisition and utility moving at a cost of $100,000 as the city's portion. If council approves the budget, then the project will move forward.

The council will consider the closeout for the downtown project that was substantially reduced earlier this year. The city has received bills from the engineers and grant consultant to close out their portions of the project, though the council will also consider continuing to work with both organizations toward redesign of Main Street water lines and funding for the reduced project.

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