City officials pleased with new budget

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Brookhaven officials are pleased with a new year budget approvedTuesday, but they say there are some weak points they hope toaddress next year.

In a brief meeting Tuesday, aldermen approved the 2001 generalfund budget that calls for $8.7 million in spending next year.That’s about $446,000 more than this year’s $8.3 million budget,which did not include over $400,000 in airport operation expensesbecause it had a separate budget.

“It’s a good budget,” said Mayor Bill Godbold, following themeeting. “At least we didn’t have to go up on taxes.”

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Property tax levy rates for city operations are scheduled toremain the same, but the levy for the Brookhaven School Districtwill rise about eight mills. That means property owners in the cityschool district will be paying about $8 more on every $1,000 ofassessed property value, which 10 or 15 percent of a property’sreal value depending on homestead exemption provisions.

The majority of the increase is due to debt service on avoter-approved $7.5 million bond issue for improvements atBrookhaven High School. Combined with $3.5 million in state finearts school-related funds, two new classroom wings and buildingrenovations will be done as part of the approximately $11 millionproject.

In another arts school-related matter, City Clerk Iris Rudmansaid $812,000 in economic development funds from HUD are includedin the budget for improvements to the Whitworth campus. Godboldsaid the money will be used for ditch work and sewer systemimprovements in preparation for the school that is scheduled toopen in 2002.

“It seems everybody is happy,” said Ward 5 Alderman Tom Smith.”It’s a good budget, and we’ve got a little left over for acushion.”

The budget predicts an $84,613 cash balance at the end of nextyear. That is down considerably from the $1.2 million cash balanceprojected for the end of the current year, which concludes Sept.30.

Aldermen were pleased with pay raises approved for policedepartment personnel. Smith described raises in those areas assubstantial.

“The plan next year is to try to do something with the otheremployees,” Smith said.

City employees, excluding elected officials, were budgeted for 3percent raises.

However, police personnel were approved for various largerpercentage raises in an effort to improve salary competitivenesswith other communities. According to the budget, police personnelservices expenditures are scheduled to increase from $1.41 millionthis year to $1.59 million next year.

“We were able to give raises that were needed in the policedepartment,” said Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates.

Bates said the department had lost 11 or more officers over thelast few years. Under the current system, new officers would jointhe Brookhaven Police Department, get trained and certified andthen leave for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

“We hope this is going to help keep them,” Bates said about payraises plans.

Another strong point in the budget Bates said was $500,000 forstreet paving next year. This year’s budget, he said, included nofund for that work.

Weak points Bates mentioned were a lack of funds for equipmentpurchases and more substantial raises needed for other cityemployees.

“We’re going to work on that,” Bates said. “We couldn’t givethem all this year.”

Bates said he would like to look at boosting starting salariesand bringing up those on the lower end of the pay scale. Duringthis year’s budget talks, Bates tried to have salaries of 29 peoplemaking $6 an hour raised to $6.50; however, officials said fundswere not available to do that.

“Those people are just as important as the police department,fire department, water department …,” Bates said.

The vote to approve the budget was 4-0. Aldermen Dorsey Cameron,the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson and Henry Newman were not present for themeeting.