City budget cuts tax rate by 13%

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 10, 2001

Brookhaven officials Thursday trimmed property tax revenueexpectations and spending plans and are set to approve a new yearbudget that cuts the city and school district tax levy rate by 13percent.

The proposed budget calls for a 6.98-mill drop to 32.57 millsfor city operations and a 6.10-mill decline to 52.42 mills to fundthe local share of Brookhaven School District operations. Thecombined levy is scheduled to drop from 98.07 mills this year to84.99 mills in the new year that starts Oct. 1.

“We’re lowering it as much as we can; 13.08 mills is a lot ofreduction,” said City Clerk Iris Rudman.

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The effect the lowered millage rates will have on propertyowners will depend on individual property value increases ordecreases assigned earlier this year following a state-mandatedreappraisal.

Earlier city budget projections based property tax revenueexpectations on 10 percent growth. However, higher property valueswill allow the city to generate more money from a tax levy mill, soadditional revenue projections were reduced to 5 percent instead of10 percent.

“We don’t have to,” Rudman said about a 10 percent property taxrevenue increase. “You don’t want to go up 10 percent if you don’thave to.”

Prior to Thursday night’s session, items cut in a budgetbalancing effort included delaying until next year a $230,000industrial park land purchase, $200,000 for paving, $30,000 for astreet department vehicle, $21,000 for ditch-related work, $6,000for an I-55 community promotion sign and $5,000 for somegrass-cutting activities.

“We’re real pleased with it,” said Rudman about the budget.”This is cut to the bone.”

Aldermen last night targeted the recreation department forfunding cuts. The department requested $457,345 in operating fundsfor next year, which is more than $100,000 over this year’s$355,482 request.

Officials said other departments were asked to hold fundingincreases to 10 percent, and the recreation department should be noexception.

“If one’s going to take it, they all should take it,” said Ward5 Alderman Tom Smith, expressing sentiments of several boardmembers.

During a discussion, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron suggested a$50,000 cut.

Aldermen eventually settled on a reduction to $420,000, whichrepresents a 10 percent funding increase plus $50,000 earmarked forAlexander Teen Center roof repairs. With the department’s move fromthe depot to the old national guard armory, $20,000 fordepot-related improvements was held out of the recreationbudget.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner said the board was “making amistake.” He earlier suggested allowing Recreation DepartmentDirector Hansel King have input on budget reduction measures.

Board members had earlier slashed a $225,000 request forconstruction of four new tennis courts. Officials cited countyschool use of current tennis courts and mentioned seeking countyfunding help should the project be pursued.

“We don’t see the county putting no money in there,” Cameronsaid.

Funding added last night included money for a housing authoritypolice officer, city matching funds should the chamber receive acommunity development block grant to help a new industry, and fundsfor an additional 1 percent insurance premium increase over andabove a budgeted 20 percent increase.

Aldermen held the line last night at $40,000 in requestedfunding for KDMC ambulance service operations.

The service had asked for $50,000, but Smith questioned thenumber of KDMC-marked cars he has seen driving around town. Servicedirector Celine Craig said the cars were used in a Medicaid-relatedprogram that allows patients to be transported in somenon-emergency situations.

Overall, new year budget revenue is projected at $8.04 millionfrom property taxes, sales taxes and other sources. Proposedexpenditures are calculated at approximately $8.9 million, with$910,438 being carried over from this year to make next year’sbudget balance.

Aldermen suggested the budget could be revised later shouldrevenue exceed expectations. Rudman, however, cautionedotherwise.

“There’s not going to be anymore money flowing into thisbudget,” she said.

Citing declining economic times, officials were hopeful theycould “hold their own” with the budget totals. Rudman stressed theimportance of aldermen sticking to budgeted expenditures.

“If we hold our own, this revenue will be fine,” Rudmansaid.

City officials scheduled a meeting Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 9a.m. to approve the new year budget and new tax levy rates.