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Aldermen OK new $7.7 million budget

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday approved a $7.7 million general fundbudget that includes no tax levy increase for city services, butthe levy to fund the local portion of city school districtactivities will be rising.

“The city is living off the same tax levy as it was last year,”City Clerk Iris Rudman said in talking about the new budget yearthat starts Oct. 1.

The 32.55 mills to support city services in fiscal year 2003 isactually down a slight two-hundredths from this year. Mills andproperty values are used in conjunction to determine the amount ofproperty taxes citizens pay each year.

In anticipated revenue, the city is expecting $1.70 million fromproperty taxes next year. That is up almost $300,000, but Rudmanattributed the additional revenue to changes in propertyvaluations.

Regarding expenditures, the $7.75 million budget is down morethan $1 million for the current year’s $8.80 million. Onedifference is that some major street-related projects are beingdone this year and not next.

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner, who made the motion to acceptthe budget, praised the budget work.

“I think a lot of hard work and effort went into the budget,”Bumgarner said. “I think we did the best we could with the money wehad.”

Mayor Bill Godbold focused his comments on a $1.04 million solidwaste budget that was also approved Tuesday night. That budget ismore than $200,000 less than this year after aldermen were forcedto lay off 10 employees because the operation continues to losemoney.

“We don’t feel good about it because we had to lay off 10people,” Godbold said.

Through attrition, Bumgarner said the city hoped to be able tomove solid waste employees into other city departments.

The city school district is targeted to receive $6.45 million inlocal property tax assistance next year. That is up from the $5.85million this year and includes funds for district maintenance,vocation programs, a funding shortfall note and otherfunctions.

To fund the local portion of school district support, the taxlevy is slated to go up 4.27 mills, from 53.87 mills to 58.14mills. That means property owners will be paying about $4.27 moreon every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The total tax levy for city and city school operations will be90.69 mills. that is up 4.25 mills from this year’s 86.44mills.

To balance next year’s general fund budget, aldermen included nomoney for employee pay raises and no new equipment purchases.

Rudman last night took exception to comments she had heardindicating that she was responsible for the budget cuts. She saidthat was not the case.

“My obligation is keep this city above board and in goodfinancial condition,” Rudman said.

Rudman said there must be funds available to back up anydecision the board makes.

“This is your budget. This is not my budget,” Rudman told boardmembers.

Rudman said the city remains in good financial condition. Thenew budget keeps the city in that shape.

“It’s a good budget, and we feel that it’s fair,” Rudmansaid.

A major budget expenditure next year will be employee healthinsurance.

Insurance agent Sylvia King presented a plan Tuesday night thatcalls for a 27.8 percent increase next year. She said she was ableto get insurance providers to lower the increase from 40 percent to27.8 percent with no plan changes.

“The city has had more medical claims than they’ve had medicalpremiums,” King said in discussing a claims history that was notgood.

The city covers all of its employees health insurance premiumsand all but $55 a month for their dependents. Full coverage ratespresented last night show an increase from around $762 a month thisyear to approximately $976 a month next year.

“You don’t mind if we stop and cry, do you?,” Godbold said whenpresented the new rates.