Early look at budget includes pay raises

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Elizabethton City Manager Jerome Kitchens talks with City Council members about plans for the 2014-2015 budget.

Elizabethton’s 2014-2015 proposed budget includes a net increase from last year’s budget, several proposed projects and a possible pay raise for city employees.
City Manager Jerome Kitchens presented the preliminary budget to City Council members during a Tuesday afternoon budget workshop.
The proposed budget included a 2 percent pay increase for all employees in the city. Kitchens said he included the increase based on budget discussions last year.
“What I heard last year was a desire to have employee raises included in the budget,” he said.
He continued the increase was added to the budget after a balanced budget had been reached first.
Kitchens said the budget contained a number of projects set to bring about capital improvements in the city, funded both by a capital outlay note and fund balance money.
“There are several things we need to do,” Kitchens said. “Capital projects are a good way to do that.”
A 3-year capital outlay note for $394,300 will be used to buy several items needed by different departments in the city. Included are a printer and office furniture for the investigation division of the police department; a vehicle for the fire department; sign software and printer and a hot asphalt patch machine for the street department; three trucks, two for the street department and one for the engineering department; intersection vehicle detection wiring and overhead traffic signal wiring for the engineering department; a truck for the animal shelter; Kiwanis park basketball court repairs; dugout improvement and repairs at Joe O’Brien field; mower and field groomer and HVAC and lighting for the parks and recreation department; and a library automation system.
Kitchens said all of the equipment that would be purchased by the outlay note would have a lifespan of more than three years.
“You never want to finance something for more years than it will last,” Kitchens said.
Mayor Curt Alexander questioned the choice to have a variable 3 percent rate on the note. Kitchens explained the state comptroller did recommend that some variable rate items as part of the debt index.
Three other projects totaling $160,500 will be funded from the general fund balance. This includes a re-roofing of the old ice-house building that is now used for storage for the police and fire department, downtown canopy repair and linear path repair.
“We have a good combination of debt and fund balance for the capital projects,” Kitchens said.
The general fund budget for the upcoming year is $16,165,702, an increase of $478,098 from the 2013-2014 city budget. A large portion of the difference came from an increase of $307,081 in tax revenue; $139,363 in proposed property taxes, $60,915 in sales tax revenue, $4,800 in beer tax and $102,003 in in-lieu of payment taxes.
Kitchens said the other significant revenue increases came from an estimated $91,610 in state shared taxes and $58,000 in police fine revenue. He did have some questions about the state shared taxes because the number in the budget came from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service before changes were made on the state budget level.
He added he felt the city would continue to see tax revenue increase in the coming years.
“We are on a slow uptick,” Kitchens said.
Kitchens also reviewed the departmental budgets with city council.
In the police department, a new police officer was included. EPD Chief Greg Workman said the new officer was needed because of the demands that were being placed on the department, such as increased traffic from the new Gap Creek Road and the future new athletic complex at Elizabethton High School.
Four new vehicles and other equipment were budgeted, along with the office equipment included in the capital outlay note. The council was also presented with the conceptual plans for a new police station. The station would include all departments for the EPD. The new station is not expected to be started until 2017.
For the fire department, a renovation was included for Station 1 so the ladder truck can be brought into downtown, and a high-mileage truck was scheduled for replacement.

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