Mayor: City assessing budget needs

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

Brookhaven officials are wrapping up the current year’s budgetand have started work on next year’s spending plans, Mayor BobMassengill said Wednesday.

Speaking to the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club, Massengill said nobodywants to see property taxes increase. Therefore, he said, there are”absolutely no plans” to raise taxes in the new year.

“We’re going to do our best to accomplish as much as we can withthe funds we have available,” said Massengill, who earlier thismonth began his first full four-year term in the city’s highestelected office.

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The mayor said budget work sessions with aldermen would be heldin August, with budget approval hopefully at the first meeting inSeptember. The city’s new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

“We’re looking at all areas of the city for ways to reduce costsand be more efficient,” Massengill said.

Kiwanis Club member John Perkins questioned the mayor onpotential changes to the city’s employee health insurance policy.Perkins, who has challenged the plan in years past, said it seemed”excessive” to have insurance take up 15 percent of the citybudget.

Massengill said the city is seeking proposals from insuranceproviders and would consider those during the budget process.

“We’re looking at various ways to try to save costs,” Massengillsaid.

On a related personnel note, the mayor said the average cityemployee makes just under $1,500 a month, excluding departmentheads. Massengill said he hopes city leaders can do something aboutsalaries.

In briefly discussing revenue, Massengill stressed theimportance of Brookhaven residents shopping at home. He said about60 percent of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax, while 31percent derives from property taxes and 5 percent from franchisetaxes.

Following the club meeting, City Clerk Mike Jinks also saidbudget plans were coming along well. Jinks said he, the mayor andDirector of Public Works Steve Moreton had received departmentheads’ requests for capital improvements in the new year.

“We’re going to start looking at those, probably, sometime nextweek,” Jinks said.

Regarding the current year budget revision, Jinks said therewere few major changes. He said there was a major water well repairthat required an additional $34,000 to the budget.

“It’s probably one of the easiest budget revisions I’ve done,”Jinks said. “We didn’t have that many major revisions that weremade during the year.”

In some cases, Jinks said new revenue came in for plannedexpenditures and the amounts offset. An example was $512,000 infederal funding for the downtown paving project and approximately$624,000, including the city’s required 20 percent match, goingtoward the contract.

The downtown paving project was among a variety of issuesMassengill mentioned during his club address. The mayor said theproject is expected to start around Aug. 20 and take four to fiveweeks to complete.

Mentioning plans for 50 feet of sidewalk modifications forhandicap accessibility near Imagi-Nations on Cherokee Street,Massengill said officials hope to be able to reduce costs wherepossible. He said the paving project would cause someinconvenience, but added that it would be worth it when it’sfinished.

“I think we will be real pleased with the downtown paving,”Massengill said.

Among other topics, Massengill predicted it would be the lastquarter of 2006 before the city’s annexation is resolved. Partieson both sides of the issue are reviewing the trial transcriptbefore the case is sent to the state Supreme Court.

“It seems to be something that’s not on anybody’s front burner,”Massengill said about annexation.

Massengill emphasized the importance of short-term andlong-range planning for the city. Among other issues, he mentionedBrookway Boulevard beautification efforts, lights for the BrookwayBoulevard-Interstate 55 interchange, water and sewer systemimprovements, systematic plans for paving and replacement of cityequipment.

“I feel we need that in order for the city to be able to moveforward like it needs to,” Massengill said about planning.