Council approves 2015 budget

Published 12:03 am Friday, June 12, 2015

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Elizabethton City Council voted 4-1 to approved the 2015-2016 budget, which included a lower property tax rate but higher water rates.

Council also amended the budget to include an additional $70,000 for the Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course, and heard from the public, including Carter County Mayor Leon Humprhey, regarding funding for Carter County Tomorrow.

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Councilman Richard Tester moved to amend the agenda to move $70,000 set aside for repaving the City Hall parking lot to the golf course. Tester said the course’s most pressing needs were new sod and to repave the worst portions of the cart paths. The new sod would cost around $25,000 with the rest of the money going to the repaving project.

“The sod suffered from winter kill so parts of the fairway grass is dead,” Tester said. “This hurts our membership and our green fees. They have also discussed taking care of the worst part of the paving on the cart paths. It will take up the rest of that funding to get started on the worst parts.”

During the public hearing portion of the budget process, Humphrey addressed council and asked them to consider holding funding for economic development in a retainer fund while options are considered. The city reduced funding for economic development to $35,000 in this budget year. Humphrey explained since the CCT president and the Tourism Coordinator positions are vacant, it is an opportune time to research other options available for economic development.

“Look at the opportunities and do some research,” Humphrey said. “This is the opportunity to do what is best for the city and the county. I don’t see a problem if you put that funding in reserve for economic development.”

Robert Carroll asked council to reconsider increasing funding for economic development. He suggested the money be put into an economic development fund to be distributed to CCT or an other economic development body.

“There is always a need for more money for economic development,” Carroll said. “The money can help increase our tax base, which increases our tax revenue. This means that the taxpayers are not the ones taking the hit all the time.”

The approved budget reduced the property tax rate by 2 cents, going from $1.82 per $100 of assessed value this year to $1.80 next year. The budget would also increase water rates by 9.6 percent. Councilman Wes Frazier voted against the budget, and councilmen Sam Shipley and Bob Cable were absent. Tester, Curt Alexander, Bill Carter and Jeff Treadway voted in favor.

Council also changed the proposed 1 percent pay raise for city employees to a $500 one-time bonus. Council believed the one-time bonus would have a larger impact, especially for those who were paid at lower rates.   

Another change was made to move $100,000 from the General Fund to hold in reserve as a possible contribution to the Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad. Council agreed to wait and see what the Carter County Commission did in regard to funding the agency before any additional money was given by the city.

The city’s original allocation to the rescue squad is $20,000. The commission’s budget committee will recommend the county give the rescue squad the same amount, $170,000, that the county gave last year.

The rescue squad had requested an additional $300,000 for operational costs because of the increasing number of bills that are left unpaid by insurance companies and patients.

The city anticipates the total tax revenue will increase from $9.9 million to $10.4 million this year. The total available funds for the city next year comes in at around $21.3 million.

Council approved ordinances to set water and sewer rates throughJune 30, 2021. The water ordinance sets the minimum rate for residents inside the city who use 1,000 gallons or less at $17.45 per month in 2015-16. The minimum rate for customers outside the city limits will be $24.34. Those minimum rates will rise to $18.95 and $25.84 in 2016-17. The minimum sewer rate inside the city will be $14.66, and $18.77 outside the city limits, for 2015-16. That will increase in 2016-17 to $15.66 inside the city and $19.77 for customers outside the city limits.

Council also approved plans to close East Elk Avenue between Riverside Drive to Main Street on the Fourth of July in order to conduct Independence Day celebrations in the Covered Bridge Park; set the opening ceremony for the new Elizabethton High School stadium on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m.; the EHS homecoming parade was scheduled for Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. and the Milligan College homecoming parade will be on Oct. 24 at 2 p.m.