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Board gets first look at new year budget figures

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen got their first look Tuesdaynight at a preliminary spending plan for the 2008-2009 fiscal year,including a possible 4 percent raise across the board for cityemployees.

Mayor Bob Massengill said the number could change. At thispoint, he said, the numbers are “very preliminary,” but that it wasa place to start from in the considerations for the next year’sbudget.

“That’s preliminary, but it may get us started,” he said.

Massengill said he and City Clerk Mike Jinks had gone throughand come up with some starting numbers for the aldermen to look atgoing into the rigorous yearly budget discussion process.

“This is just a starting place for the budget,” he said, tellingthem he and Jinks had looked at last year’s budget, specificchanges within departments that might raise or lower the amount ofmoney needed, and other factors like numbers from the taxoffice.

“For instance, the recreation department had $476,000 in2006-2007, and this year they had $500,000, and here we’ve pluggedin $525,000,” he said. “That’s because they’ll have Bethel Park andthe spray parks to contend with.”

Officials said the general fund looks as though expenditurescould be as much as $130,000 over revenue. Jinks explained therewill be carryover to make up for that difference, and that he makesconservative estimates when figuring preliminary numbers as aprecautionary measure.

“There are some places where I’d rather figure the revenue underthan over,” he said. “And the budget does not yet reflect carryoverfrom this year.”

One thing officials said will be a great help to the budgetingprocess this year is the fact that the city has been bringing in agood deal more sales tax than they had counted on. Massengill toldthem the city had budgeted around $425,000 for sales tax per month,and that the past month the city had brought in $463,000.

“We need to say a blessing over that,” said Ward Five AldermanD.W. Maxwell, laughing.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips pointed out that with sales taxbeing 50-60 percent of the city’s revenue, it might be worthbudgeting some money to put toward a campaign to remind Brookhavenresidents to shop at home.

“It’s in our interests to increase our sales tax dollars,” hesaid. “Our message should be that it helps to keep your propertytax down to do your shopping locally.”

Massengill added that shopping locally also helps merchants, soit is a win-win situation for the city and its business owners. Inaddition, he said, Brookhaven’s economy is still strongcomparatively speaking, which is something for citizens to begrateful for at this point in time.

“I don’t know if we’re the last to feel the big crunch, but oureconomy is still good,” he said. “Of course everyone is hurtingfrom the cost of fuel and energy, but we’re doing pretty well,considering.”

The discussion led to Phillips’ idea of a city Web site.Massengill said he’d been told that businesses will look atcommunities by their Web sites and narrow down their lists withoutever even visiting a lot of the places.

“I firmly believe that perception is reality,” Phillips said.”If we look professional and act professional, big industries willtreat us as professionals.”

The water and sewer and solid waste budgets will show noincrease over current rates unless Waste Management goes up again,Massengill said. Waste Management is allowed to adjust their ratesaccording to the cost of fuel.

Massengill told the board the final budget has to be approved bySept. 15, so tentatively he’d like to see the public hearing heldAug. 26 or sometime that week.

Aldermen agreed to set the next budget work sessions at the Aug.5 board meeting.