City cuts help balance budget

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Brookhaven officials are in line to have balanced budgets in allthree city spending areas next year, but there is little room forany additional spending, according to discussions during a Tuesdaynight public hearing.

City Clerk Iris Rudman said the general fund, water and sewerand solid waste budgets are balanced for the new year that startsOct. 1. However, she said they include no money for equipmentpurchases or pay raises.

“Nor can there be during the year unless additional revenuecomes in,” Rudman said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The general fund budget anticipates $7.13 million in revenue and$7.51 million in spending. Approximately $385,000 in expectedcarryover funds from this year will be used to balance the budgetnext year.

Rudman said budget totals are being finalized and the board isexpected to approve revenue and spending plans at the Sept. 3 boardmeeting.

Long-time city officials Tuesday night lamented the new yearbudgets as the worst they’ve had to deal with. In the general fund,aldermen had to slash more than $1 million from department heads’budget requests to make spending plans balance.

“You couldn’t have done it without doing what you did,” Rudmansaid about balanced budget possibilities. “There’s no way.”

Balancing the $1.03 million solid waste budget forced aldermento lay off 10 sanitation department employees. With expectedexpenditures of $1.01 million, the cuts helped produce a projected$20,806 surplus for next year.

“The toughest part for me was to lay off those employees,” saidWard 2 Alderman Terry Bates.

Employee pay raise possibilities continued to get board members’attention Tuesday night.

“There are no pay raises in any of these budgets,” Rudmansaid.

Rudman said the current administration is not bound by aprevious board’s action, so fire department step –or merit — payraise plans approved five years ago were removed in the budgetbalancing efforts. Newly-hired firefighters who complete the fireacademy will receive raises, according to budget plans.

Officials again pointed out that an expected 29.5 percentincrease in employee health insurance premiums is included in thebudget. The city covers all of its employees’ insurance and aportion of their families.

“You get a raise through covering the insurance,” said Aldermanat large Les Bumgarner.

Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron, who was vocal in his desire togive pay raises, said many employees would not see it that way.Officials left open the possibility of pay raises in January if taxcollections come in better than expected.

“It’s not a total no,” Rudman said.

Mayor Bill Godbold, who said he signed paychecks earlierTuesday, defended current salaries.

“Everybody who’s been with us some time, they’re making a prettygood salary…,” the mayor said. “They service us, we servicethem.”

Rudman reported no problems in the water and sewer fund budget.She said it is an enterprise fund, meaning collected revenue mustmeet expenditures.

“It has to balance with receipts,” Rudman said.

That budget predicts $1.97 million in revenue and $2.1 millionin expenditures. Rudman said carryover funds from this year willbalance that budget.

According to preliminary tax levy totals mentioned Tuesdaynight, city property owners are forecast to get a small break fromthe city. The tax levy to help fund city services is targeted todrop from 32.57 mills to 32.55 mills.

However, property owners in the Brookhaven School District,which includes an area outside the city limits, are in for a4.27-mill tax levy increase.

The levy is targeted to rise from 53.87 mills to 58.14 mills.That means property owners will be paying about $4.27 more on every$1,000 of assessed property value.

The school district is slated to receive $6.4 million from localproperty taxes next year. The budget request includes funds fordistrict maintenance, vocational support, capital expenditures and2000 general obligation bond issue.