Council hears animal shelter, department heads’ budget requests

Published 8:55 am Thursday, April 20, 2017

Passionate pleas for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter and various department managers showcasing their financial requests highlighted Wednesday’s City Council budget workshop
Carter County Commissioner Robert Carroll spoke first prior to the budget workshop and talked about the importance of funding the animal shelter equally.
Carroll encouraged to City Council to look at providing a 10-cent tax break for city residents that would be paying both county and city taxes and that if the city would not be able to fund a significant portion, the county residents would either be left paying for the increase to fund the facility or it would ultimately have to shut down.
“It needs to be kept open for the city and the county,” he said.
During Monday’s budget session, City Manager Jerome Kitchens stated the city’s budget money is remaining at roughly $127,000 pending further information and details to come from talks about the shelter operation and having an apprehension about funding half of the $450,000 proposed budget to for the sake of taxpayers.
County Mayor Leon Humphrey also addressed Council members about the need for additional funding and provided a copy of the county’s budget.
The mayor added it was a learning experience and discussions led to a top-to-bottom review of the facility, which saw significant changes personnel and management.
Mayor Humphrey added that increases to this year’s budget compared to last year included the addition of a moving a part-time position to a  full-time office manager, food and supplies, custodians services and medical drug services.
The hope is that the shelter could receive funding from a 501(c)3, Mayor Humphrey said, but that the shelter needs to be funded adequately before it gets to that point.
Humphrey and Council member Sam Shipley both mentioned it been a learning experience to take the right about when it comes to the animals.
Mayor Humphrey, while also adding there has been misinformation spread about the shelter from individuals “looking to go into business for themselves”, provided a copy of the county’s agreement that reportedly stated it was signed in September 2011. Humphrey added that both the Elizabethton Star and Johnson City Press both reported the signing in respective print editions.
The conflicting agreement goes against the document the city has on file, which indicates the contract was set to expire February 13, 2017, and was signed on the same date in 2012. City Council effectively nullified their contract during their Feb. 9 meeting by voting unanimously to renegotiate the agreement.
A concern was brought up by Council member Richard Tester about the city being held to the 50/50 funding and having to dictate their budget to the county’s.
Before talks could continue about the agreements, City Manager Jerome Kitchens added it wasn’t the best time for the discussion since the city’s attorney, Roger Day, was not in attendance at the meeting. County attorney Josh Hardin was in attendance.
During the budget workshop, Water Resources, Streets and Sanitation and Electric departments each provided their needs for the coming year and asked City Council about the possibility of looking at some type of raise for employees to keep them in the city and from pursuing other jobs.
Council member Wes Frazier recommended to Kitchens that an MTAS study on Water Resources be performed after Department Manager Johan Coetzee presented the issue. While discussing the topic, the city manager added that raises, on top of other expenditures, would see a property tax increase for city residents.
City Council will hold another budget workshop on Monday, May 1, beginning at 11 a.m. City Mayor Curt Alexander encouraged Council members to come prepare with topics they feel need to be addressed in the budget as they look to have it ready for the first reading – tentatively pegged for the May City Council regularly scheduled meeting.

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