The Crossville City Council will consider its third and final reading of the 2019-’20 city budget Tuesday. 

But the council still doesn’t know how an ongoing wage study will impact the budget.

“We’ve got the elephant in the room we need to deal with,” City Manager Greg Wood told the council during its work session June 4. 

The wage study could call for up to a 10% increase in city wages — about $672,000 in the general fund budget, $135,000 for the water department and $40,000 for the Catoosa water department. 

The report was expected to be ready this month, but Wood reported during the work session June 4 that the company hired to complete the study, McGrath Human Resources Group, had encountered difficulty accessing comparative wage rates with other cities and counties.

Councilman J.H. Graham III said, “It would be my recommendation to cross that bridge when we come to it. I don’t think we need to reserve a line item today, because it would be a pure guess.”

Wood said he would likely recommend the council phase in wage increases over a year or two.

Wood told the council he had rearranged the marketing budget, moving the marketing director position to program manager for parks and recreation. That would save about $43,000, he said, because the position would have a lower pay rate and would not be eligible for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, which requires a city contribution of 13% of an employee’s salary. 

Wood told the Chronicle the new leisure services director will replace the parks and recreation director position, with no significant cost increase.

“We are not adding any new positions, just rearranging jobs and responsibilities at a net savings to the taxpayers,” Wood told the Chronicle. 

The council will also consider an ordinance appropriating donations to nonprofit organizations. Though included in the budget, the council must approve a separate ordinance.

The $19 million budget includes $18.6 million in revenue. The $420,672 deficit will be funded through the city’s estimated $12.94 million general fund balance. The council is not considering a tax increase, with the city property tax rate holding at 59 cents per $100 of assessed value. 

A public hearing on the budget and tax rate will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by the city’s regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at Crossville City Hall, 392 N. Main St.

The council will also consider a request from an unnamed retail development for the city to provide new water taps and sewer tap, waive building inspection fees and waive future water and sewer tap fees. The total request comes to $10,850 for the two potential businesses eyeing development of the former Ryan’s Restaurant location on N. Main St.

“Is it standard for us to do something like this?” asked Councilman Scot Shanks.

Mayberry said, “No, this is pretty much brand new.”

The city had agreed to waive building inspection fees for the new Rural King store set to open in August. 

Mayberry said the potential investment of the retail proposal was just under $3 million.

“They plan to start pretty much immediately,” Mayberry said. 

Shanks said he’d talked to people who were unhappy with the city’s assistance to new retail establishments.

“Is that going to make the difference in somebody coming or not? If it is, that’s pretty questionable,” Shanks said.

Wood said the incentives made the retail stores feel welcome in the community.

“It gives them a warm fuzzy and that we want them,” he said.

Shanks said, “And we do [want them]. But, we’re not going to be going out and offering to people who don’t ask.”

Graham said retail incentives were becoming the “norm” across the state.

Wood said the council could determine a set policy for what it is willing to offer new businesses, such as building inspection fees.

“Then you do it on the merits of the business,” Wood said.

Tuesday’s agenda includes a number of bids and purchases, including materials for the street department as they work on road maintenance during the summer months, waterline supplies, and grinder pumps. The council will also consider a $9,900 bid for labeling electrical panels at the wastewater treatment plant and a redundant server for the information technology department.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.