City aldermen sharpening budget ax

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2001

With included expenditures running $1.5 million over expectedrevenue, Brookhaven aldermen will ask city department heads to helptake the budget ax to spending plans for the new year that beginsin a little over a month.

After two earlier work sessions where a variety of projects wereadded, aldermen Monday were presented a proposed budget showing$9.6 million in spending but only $8.07 million in expectedrevenue.

“That’s the budget as you see it and we’re $1.5 million short,”said City Clerk Iris Rudman.

Rudman said the new proposed budget includes no money forannexation-related expenses or multi-modal transportation facilitycosts, which could be covered through a federal fundingappropriation. The clerk said $400,000-$600,000 could be carriedover from the current budget year, but that would still leavearound $1 million needing to be trimmed.

“We’ve got to do a lot of cutting,” said Ward 4 Alderman BobMassengill.

Where, though, was the question aldermen pondered lastnight.

“Better sharpen your pencil,” quipped Ward 6 Alderman John E.”Buddy” Allen.

Included in last night’s proposed budget were “wish list”equipment purchases, 5 percent pay raises for all city employees,funding to accommodate a 20 percent increase in insurance premiumsand funds for several projects in individual wards.

Areas considered for cutting were paving and the ward projects,equipment purchases, “charity money” the city gives to variousorganizations, and funds for some chamber of commerce activities,such as $450 a month for a Interstate 55 billboard that Ward 5Alderman Tom Smith called “useless” because of its poor visibility.Officials were expected to ask Chandler Russ, the chamber’sexecutive vice-president, to speak to them about chamberactivities, including industrial park land purchases, at their nextbudget work session on Thursday.

“I think we all need to tighten up our belts a little bit,”Smith said about the city’s budget situation.

On the revenue side, city officials are expecting themaximum-allowed 10 percent increase in revenue from propertytaxes.

“I’m not really in favor of raising taxes,” said Alderman atlarge Les Bumgarner.

Rudman, though, said the property tax levy rate is expected togo down because of an overall increase in county property values.She said the tax levy could not be determined yet because the cityhas not received new values from the county.

Based on the 10 percent revenue increase projection, Bumgarnerrecommended aldermen contact city department heads and ask them torevise their requests for only 10 percent increases. Pay raises andinsurance costs would not be subject to department headrevision.

“What they need and don’t need, it’s hard for me to say,”Bumgarner said.

Regarding equipment needs, aldermen said departments could getby another year with some items. Bumgarner indicated a need to makewishes more realistic.

“That’s our problem, we’ve got too many wants in there,”Bumgarner said about the budget.

Aldermen have scheduled another work session for Thursday at 6p.m. A public hearing on the budget for the new year, which startsOct. 1, is scheduled for Sept. 4 and aldermen must approve a newbudget by Sept. 14.