The Crossville City Council approved the third and final reading of Crossville's 2009-2010 fiscal year budget after working for almost two hours to reduce the budget's red ink from $4.5 million to $2.5 million.

City manager Ted Meadows told the council that he and the finance director had spent considerable time over the last two months working on the budget but it remained at the start of the meeting with a $4.5 million deficit.

“We're going to spend money this year as last year, like it is our money,” Meadows explained. “Some items in the budget may not be spent if grants and revenue does not come in to fund them.”

One change recommended by Meadows was dropping the 3 percent cost of living increase for city employees this year. Meadows said that the local and economic conditions led him to that decision, including the fact that the city's overall inflation factor for the previous year was a fraction of 1 percent.

“We are going to curtail our raises until things improve,” said Meadows.

Councilman Boyd Wyatt agreed saying, “We need to be lean and mean, so to speak.”

Mayor J.H. Graham III wanted to take work on the budget a bit farther saying, “We need to set some priorities on the $4.5 million deficit. There are about one half dozen projects I'd like to put on hold indefinitely.”

Graham explained that he understood that the city's taxes and fees revenue covered the operational expenses of the city and the deficit was to fund capital expenditures. Meadows confirmed the mayor was correct.

Graham explained that it might be appropriate to look at possible long term financing to pay for capital projects. Graham added that the Tennessee Municipal League bond fund currently lent money to cities at a very low interest rate.

The council spent the remainder of the budget discussion looking at capital expenditures, including the removal of a number of budgeted vehicle purchases from the budget.

“We don't need to buy any vehicles but police cars,” said Wyatt. He added, “If anyone needed a vehicle they could use an old police car.”

Another reduction in the budget deficit came from looking at projects that should be funded through grants and adding revenue for the costs of the projects. The offsetting revenue added to the budget reduces the total deficit. Graham stressed that if grants are not received then the projects will not be done during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Graham is hopeful about receiving grants for numerous projects, including the energy saving audits completed earlier this year and recommendations to upgrade lighting and heating and cooling systems in several city facilities.

The council removed $250,000 from the budget that had been listed for radio system access with the county. The cost would have allowed the city to talk with those on the county's new digital P-25 radio system. Because there have been some problems with the system so far, Fire Chief Mike Turner said the system was not yet working as expected. The council opted to delay the expenditure until the system is fully operational.

Another planned expenditure for a weather warning system for the city has been put on the funded if grant funds are received list. All the council agreed that the system was needed and would be installed if the funding is forthcoming.

Funds to purchase furniture and equipment for the engineering and codes department was left in the budget. The departments are planning to move to a nearby rental building in order to have more room and give better service.

Another $500,000 of city street paving was left in the budget. Graham pointed out the past winter was hard on streets in the city and the expenditure was needed. Other council members agreed. Additional road improvements were also left in the budget, including $50,000 for repair of the bridge on Old Sparta Highway and another $50,000 for widening and repair of the bridge on Myrtle Avenue.

Expenses necessary for the operation of the new Duer Soccer Complex were left in the budget, including purchase of a new mower for field maintenance and two new full-time employees. Few requests for new employees were retained in the budget.

Under the water and sewer fund, some capital improvements have been delayed including $2 million for work on the Holiday Hills water plant and $80,000 for a new backhoe for the sewer collection department used for line repairs. Public Works Director Tim Begley felt they could probably get by one more year on the current one.

The motion to approve the budget with the changes discussed during the meeting was made by Wyatt and seconded by Graham. The roll call vote was for unanimous approval.

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