$7.9M general budget eyed

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday received their first look at aproposed $7.9 million fiscal year 2005 general fund budget, onethat includes small employee pay raises and anticipates a slightdecrease in worker health insurance costs.

The proposed budget anticipates no increase in the property taxlevy for city operations and no rate increases for city services.The city, though, expects to have a little more operating revenuebecause of property value changes.

“Due to assessed valuation, we’ll get an increase in revenue,”said City Clerk Mike Jinks, referring to an expected $25,430 boostfrom property taxes.

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Total city revenue for the new year is forecast at $7.43million, with expenditures at $7.95 million. A $513,000 deficitwould be covered with carryover funds from the current year.

City officials are looking to finalize revenue and spendingplans at the Sept. 7 board meeting before fiscal year 2005 startsOct. 1. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6 p.m.Tuesday.

The mayor and board of aldermen would be excluded from 3 percentemployee pay raises proposed in the new budget. In the healthinsurance category, Jinks said a 3 percent decrease has beenbudgeted, although he indicated the decrease could be more.

“There’s going to be a reduction in health insurance,” saidJinks, who has been working with Mayor Bob Massengill and citydepartment heads on the budget in recent weeks.

Jinks said the city claims history had improved. Other cityofficials were pleased to hear the information about the healthinsurance, a major city expense which had seen large increases thelast two years.

“That’s good news, because insurance had been hurting us,” saidAlderman at large Les Bumgarner, adding that he was glad to seerates stabilize. “If our rates hadn’t stabilized, I think we wouldhave had to make a change.”

Aldermen last night gave no indications of changing the city’scurrent policy. Under the current plan, all of an employee’sinsurance premiums and most of the premium for dependent coverageis paid for by the city.

“I feel like it’s our responsibility to see that employees andtheir families are covered by decent insurance,” said Ward FiveAlderman Tom Smith. “At least we can do that.”

In a related matter, Massengill said liability insurance costsshould decrease after a review of city-owned property andbuildings. He said some buildings which are no longer or not yetcity property had been removed.

Among the buildings mentioned last night were the old TeenTavern, which is now the administrative building for theMississippi School of the Arts, and the old Mississippi HighwayPatrol substation on Highway 51.

In exchange for purchasing land on Highway 84 for a new MHPsubstation, the city was to receive the old substationbuilding.

MHP began operations out of the facility more than a year ago,but the city has not received the deed to the old substation.Aldermen voiced concern about the deed delay on the building, whichis being considered for use by the Brookhaven PoliceDepartment.

“We’re now just learning we don’t even own the building,” saidWard One Alderman Dorsey Cameron.

In other budget areas, aldermen rejected two $18,000 purchasesfor new trucks for animal control and the fire department. Boardmembers said a used truck could be purchased for animal control orone could be transferred from another city department.

To match $200,000 in federal funds, the board added $50,000 tothe budget for a Center Street paving project in Ward One. Also,aldermen raised a budgeted $60,000 allocation for city wide pavingto $120,000.

“That’s be $20,000 per ward,” Massengill said.

The budget scales back expected annexation-related expenses fromover $300,000 this year to $40,000 next year. A court ruling onannexation is currently being appealed, and officials are unsurehow much that could cost.

“That may be enough to get us through,” said City Attorney JoeFernald.

Massengill pointed out that should the annexation be approvedbefore the end of the next budget year, then the board will have torevise the budgets for city departments.

“There’s a lot of things we would be doing,” Massengillsaid.

Aldermen spent only a little time last night discussing theWater and Sewer and Solid Waste budgets. Those budgets, which areseparate from the General Fund, are required to be self-supportingthrough user fees and other revenue.

“We don’t anticipate any adjustments in those,” Jinks said.

The Solid Waste budget was especially good news for boardmembers. Aldermen last year moved to privatize garbage collectionservices and made other changes in an effort to improve thelong-struggling city operation.

“I was real pleased with it,” Massengill said.

The Solid Waste budget anticipates $822,800 in revenue and$873,918 in expenditures, with the difference being covered bycarryover funds from the current year. The budget includes $5,000for a landfill study and $25,000 that could be used to helppurchase additional land that may be needed in the future.

The Water and Sewer budget calls for $2.01 million in revenueand $2.1 million in spending. A $186,749 deficit also would becovered with carryover funds.

While carryover funds are sufficient to address deficits in thethree budget areas, Massengill and Jinks cautioned that thosemonies could eventually run out if the city continues to spend morethan it takes in.

“Right now, we’re OK,” Massengill said.

Aldermen scheduled a special meeting for next Monday with cityrecreation department officials to discuss that operation’s budgetsituation. The board is also expected to have another work sessionto finalize plans before the Aug. 31 public hearing and budgetapproval in September.

“That should put us in good shape for Sept. 7,” Massengillsaid.