County increases Fort Hill budget after appeal

Posted 6/19/18

With the deadline looming to approve the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis presented the revised budget to the Bradley County Commission during its voting session on Monday.

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County increases Fort Hill budget after appeal

FORT HILL Cemetery Association Treasurer John Conner, left, listens as FHCA President Gary Austin discusses the association's funding request.
FORT HILL Cemetery Association Treasurer John Conner, left, listens as FHCA President Gary Austin discusses the association's funding request.
Banner photo, AUTUMN HUGHES

With the deadline looming to approve the 2018-19 fiscal year budget, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis presented the revised budget to the Bradley County Commission during its voting session on Monday.

Davis said there is $2 million in the Debt Service fund balance, "but there's no hidden money there" with only $5,000 more than required by state law in the fund.

Speaking about the Road Department budget, Davis said, the only difference is the end-of-year amendments.

"All of those will be in your new (budget) book next week," he said.

Monday’s meeting was also the opportunity for county departments and other agencies and organizations that receive funding from Bradley County to appeal cuts made to their funding requests.

The only budget appeal came from the Fort Hill Cemetery Association. The Finance Committee recommended cutting the annual contribution from $9,000 to $5,000 during a budget review earlier this month. In part the cut was based on a review of the cemetery’s reserve fund that shows multiple certificates of deposit.

On Monday, Fort Hill Cemetery Association President Gary Austin handed out maps to show who is responsible for mowing the different areas of the cemetery in downtown Cleveland. He said the FHCA was formed in 1987 "to keep up the north end of Fort Hill Cemetery" that was not under a perpetual care agreement and had fallen to disrepair.

Austin said money from the city and county is what FHCA operates on "to make sure the pioneers of Bradley County are taken care of." He said when FHCA receives perpetual care money they can only use interest earned off the principal — money in the certificates of deposit — to pay for cemetery upkeep. He added the FHCA is fortunate now that the budget request has been cut that they have that interest so they can continue to maintain the cemetery.

Austin said mowing is done in different sections of the cemetery by the Bradley County Community Services, Southeast Tennessee Community Services, Bradley County Sheriff's Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, as well as the FHCA pays to have the remaining areas maintained.

"If you cut our budget from $9,000 to $5,000 the city's going to follow your lead and we won't be able to operate," Austin said.

Commisssioner Milan Blake, who is chairman of the Finance Committee and had earlier recommended a funding increase to $9,250, clarified that the FHCA's sources of funding are the two local governments and interest earned off principal. Austin said that is correct.

County Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber said he is not sure of the Finance Committee's reasons for cutting the contribution, but asked that it be increased instead to $9,250.

Commissioner Thomas Crye said he made the motion that the Finance Committee recommend dropping the county's funding but he will go along with the will of the commission. Crye added his recommendation to cut funding was nothing personal or "vindictive," he was simply looking at the numbers.

Commissioner Johnny Mull said he wants to see the maintenance of the cemetery continue because "we're better than that in Bradley County."

Commissioner Dan Rawls asked what the FHCA is doing to inform the public of its need for funding. "I don't think the public knows," he said.

Austin said there are signs in the cemetery asking for donations and the FHCA has periodically placed notes in the Cleveland Daily Banner asking for contributions.

Commissioner Mike Hughes said he supported the funding cut in the Finance Committee meeting, but seeing the map helped him change his mind.

After the additional explanation, the commission approved increasing the contribution to the Fort Hill Cemetery Association to $9,250.

Both the Bradley County Clerk and Master and the Museum Center at Five Points were also on the agenda for budget appeals, but neither sent representatives to the meeting.

On another budget-related note, Commissioner Charlotte Peak asked for clarification about the Road Department budget; she said it shows 4 percent salary increases. She added there is a footnote that if a salary increase is given then those employees won't receive the 2.5 percent countywide increase, too. Davis said that is correct.

Peak said she wants to be sure that footnote is clear and the Road Department employees aren't allowed to "double dip" by having salary increases in the department budget and the additional 2.5 percent across-the-board countywide increase. Davis said he cannot speak for the Road Department, which is led by an elected official, Road Superintendent Sandra Knight.

County Commission Chairman Louie Alford asked if Peak wanted to make a motion to make sure that the footnote of not adding the 2.5 percent countywide increase is also applied. Davis said the options are to enforce the footnote or take out the salary increase in the budget.

"They're told not to increase salaries, that you all will address it in the budget," Davis said to the commissioners.

Peak made a motion to remove $80,570 from the Road Department budget; Yarber seconded it.

"I think they were attempting to adjust their salaries to where they need to be," Davis added.

Blake said he understands from a previous meeting the Road Department was close to losing state funding.

Davis said funding is based on the five-year average, which is based on revenues. He said changing an expense line doesn't change the five-year average.

Rawls questioned "dictating" to the Road Department about what it can pay its employees. Yarber said they are not dictating, just "doing what we do with every other department" in treating each department fairly.

Yarber asked Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg about the proper way to do this. Freiberg said she understands the funding request from the Road Department includes the salary increases and said the commissioners can remove the 2.5 percent increase because another salary increase is already in the budget.

"I just want it to be fair" for all departments, Peak said.

"This is a countywide policy," Blake added.

The commission approved removing $80,570 from the budget, which is the 2.5 percent countywide increase to be removed to adhere to the county policy.

The motion passed 11-3, with Hughes and Commissioners Robert Rominger and Terry Caywood voting against it.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a resolution for a continuation of the current fiscal year budget until the 2018-2019 budget is approved, which is scheduled for July 2. According to the resolution, it will help “provide for the uninterrupted operation of the government of Bradley County … until a firm budget for the fiscal year 2018-2019 can be finally established.”

• Approved a resolution to require the Bradley County Board of Equalization members and county board hearing officers to complete continuing education. The measure passed 13-1 with Peak voting against it.

• Approved a resolution to adopt the 2017 updated Bradley County natural hazard mitigation plan.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the creation of a reserve account in the Sheriff's Office for funds collected from the one-cent-per-gallon maintenance surcharge placed upon internal county purchases of gasoline from the pumps located at the Sheriff's Office. The measure passed 13-1 with Crye voting against it.

• Approved a recommendation from the Road Committee to post "No Parking" signs in the Willowbrook Subdivision, Teakwood Trail and in the Farmingdale Subdivision.

• Approved another Road Committee recommendation to abandon Old Chattanooga Valley Road. The road, off Old Chatta Valley Road, goes to one house and the owners requested the road be abandoned.

• Approved a recommendation from the Tax Committee to offer county-owned property on Woodlawn Street S.E. for $1. Commissioner Howard Thompson voted against the measure.

• Approved another Tax Committee recommendation to offer county-owned property at 1407 Wildwood Lake Road S.E., for $1,000.

• Heard from Davis that the county has been accepting applications for firefighter positions.

"We did have 41 applicants," he said.

• Heard a request from Dennis Stafford on behalf of residents of Brackett subdivision where he said flooding affects dozens of homes. Thompson asked that it be forwarded to the Road Committee for review.


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