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Over alderman’s objection, board OKs $8.2M budget

Despite recreation department funding objections from Ward TwoAlderman Terry Bates, Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday approved an $8.2million budget for he next fiscal year that includes a slight taxlevy decrease.

While also mentioning a 2 percent funding increase foroperational expenses and $15,000 for new basketball courts at theA.L. Lott Complex, Bates last night renewed is his disapproval of aBrookhaven Recreation Department staffing issue. Bates has beenunsuccessful in having a recreation programs director, who isblack, moved from the old railroad depot to the main departmentheadquarters in the old armory on Highway 51.

“We are handing them enough money to operate it and they don’thear anything this board says,” said Bates, referring to theBrookhaven Parks Commission that oversees the department.

Parks commission officials have said the assistant director’swork location is a “dead issue.” During a meeting last week, theysaid the worker is at the old depot by choice and that helps her tobetter promote the recreation department.

Bates Tuesday night wanted to support the overall budget butoppose the recreation department’s funding. However, he was told byCity Attorney Joe Fernald he couldn’t challenge a line item in thebudget.

Mayor Bob Massengill said Bates could vote for the budget butvoice his objections to the recreation funding. Alderman at largeLes Bumgarner said Bates was crossing a fine line in trying to pickapart the budget.

“You’ve got to take the good with the bad and look at the wholething,” Bumgarner said.

The new budget allocates $458,404 for the recreation department.That includes a 2 percent increase to cover higher fuel and utilityexpenses plus funds to cover 3 percent pay raises that cityemployees, excluding the mayor and aldermen, are scheduled toreceive.

Earlier in the budget discussion, Bates questioned the utilitiesincrease. He said the department should be self-supporting.

Other officials disagreed. Massengill said all city departmentswere impacted by higher utilities costs.

“I think it’s a pretty fair and reasonable request,” Bumgarnersaid.

In other recreation matters, Massengill said $40,000 set asidethis year for improvements to the old gym at Alexander Junior HighSchool was not included in the new budget.

The school district did not act this year on a joint agreementfor gym improvements. Massengill indicated funding could be foundnext year if the district chooses to pursue the project.

“I believe this board would respond positively when thathappens,” Massengill said.

Regarding the vote on the budget, Ward One Alderman DorseyCameron said he had been enlightened on some issues after talkingwith recreation department officials earlier Tuesday. While notelaborating on his discussions, Cameron said that would influencehis vote.

Following up on an earlier mention of a swimming pool andcommunity center, Cameron said the recreation department could notbe faulted if the city board did not include money for those items.There was a brief discussion on the possibility of how funds couldbe allocated and saved for those projects.

Massengill said the time for planning is difficult with thecurrent board is in its last year in office. However, he saidofficials needed to quit giving “lip service” to a project and finda way to do it.

“We’ve got to have a plan for the city of Brookhaven,” saidMassengill, who ended the budget discussion and called for a voteon the plan.

The budget was approved 5-1, with Bates the lone vote againstthe plan. The $8.2 million budget for fiscal year 2005, whichstarts Oct. 1, is down almost $1 million from the current year’s$9.1 million budget.

A property tax levy to help fund the budget also wasapproved.

The overall levy, according to City Clerk Mike Jinks, isscheduled to drop from 92.52 mills to 92.17 mills. The decreaseamounts to less than $1 on every $1,000 of assessed propertyvalue.

Jinks pointed out last night that bonds, one for the city andone for the city school district, ended and mills no longer neededto be levied for those.

“We were able to reduce that,” Jinks said.