Proposed county budget has no property tax hike
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Jun 03, 2014 | 950 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“It’s now down to this,” said County Mayor D. Gary Davis as he presented a 2014-15 budget proposal to commissioners Monday night which shows no property tax increase and a slight raise for county employees.

However, approval of the budget remains mainly contingent on hearing from the Bradley County Board of Education, which failed to pass its budget Monday night.

Davis’ budget projects a 1.6 percent increase in revenue totaling $39.7 million and a 1.6 increase in expenditures totaling $33.6 million.

The budget includes a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase for employees and also deals with a 22 percent increase for property and casualty/workman’s compensation insurance as well as a projected increase of 7.5 percent for medical insurance costs.

Davis pointed out the projected fund balance for next year is $5.9 million, which is 17.76 percent of the budget.

He added the number to pay attention to is the unreserved fund balance, which is required to be 11 percent. The projection is for 11.4 percent.

“The good news is the fund balance projection is growing from $4.4 million to $5.9 million,” Davis said.

“Most of the [department] budgets are either the same this year or less,” he said.

Some of the budget highlights included:

n EMS: Davis said there is a $281,000 increase, but because the $160,000 to buy two new chassis for two current ambulances has been taken out of the capital projects budget and placed back into the general fund budget, the department’s net increase is actually $121,000.

The department had requested funding for 24 shifts on Saturday and Sunday. The proposal would fund 16-hour shifts on those days.

The budget also includes $10,000 for uniforms, which is half of the original request.

Funding is also included for a “power stretcher” and two compression devices. Davis hopes a grant may be available to help offset those expenses.

n Sheriff’s Office: There is an increase of $79,000, but there is an actual net increase of $33,000 because of vehicle expenses that have been moved from the capital budget to the general fund.

The department had asked for five cars, but four are in the mayor’s recommendation.

n Election Commission: The budget is a 15 percent increase over the current year because of the way the election cycles are running with multiple elections being held within the year.

n County buildings: Includes funds to upgrade the communications software within the courthouse and annex facilities.

n Reappraisal: An increase from $73,000 to $115,000 includes funding for a one-time flyover mapping project.

n Justice Center: A $108,277 (1.7 percent) increase from the current year. A van and a patrol car had been requested, but the proposal only includes funding for the van.

n County Coroner: A $9,000 increase to fund a second part-time person.

n Fire Department: The largest item increase was for property/casualty and workman’s compensation which saw a 240 percent increase to $151,099.

“Workman’s comp mainly went up because of additional employees,” Davis explained. “And, there was a rate increase on property and casualty.”

n Debt Service: $4 million is scheduled to be paid on the county’s debt in the proposed budget.

Davis pointed out 14 department budgets are less than the current year, with animal control seeing the largest decrease of $100,000.

The Commission’s finance committee will review the proposal Thursday at noon in the county mayor’s conference room at the county annex.

Davis received word during the meeting that the school board would meet again Wednesday.

“I don’t know where they’re going with this, but we need the school budget to help get one approved this year,” he said. “We need to get one in the near future.”

Commissioners also approved the new policy adding vaping to the smoking prohibition in buildings owned or leased by the county.

Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber was the lone dissenter, saying he was not convinced there was enough evidence as to potential harm of the products.

Fourth District Commission J. Adam Lowe noted a group of e-cigarette proponents had already informed the Commission they had no opposition to the policy.

Yarber was also the lone dissenter on a vote to establish an ad hoc committee to “review the best means of providing timely septic tank permits.”

The commissioner maintained a study had been done four years ago and the idea of the county doing the service was scrapped because of cost.

“It’ll only be higher now,” Yarber said.

Commissioners unanimously approved the new fire districts which now incorporate most of the county.

The rates will not go up, but some residents will now have the charge they were not previously required to pay.