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Board OKs $17M budget after opposition

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen approved a $17 million budget for the next year that includes slight raises for employees and a hike in water, sewer and garbage rates.

The vote came Tuesday after some opposition by Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates.

Terry Bates

Terry Bates

Bates asked that five budget items be pulled from the consent agenda so they could be discussed separately.

Those items were:

• The approval of a 3 percent pay increase for all weekly employees and a 2 percent pay increase on all semi-monthly employees, effective Oct. 1;

• The approval of an increase of 50 cents in the minimum water rates, 50 cents in the minimum sewer rates and 50 cents in the solid waste rates;

• The approval of the 2016-2017 tax levies;

• The approval of the 2016-2017 debt service;

• The approval of the 2016-2017 budgets for the general fund, water/sewer fund and solid waste fund.

Bates opposed the general fund budget because he does not agree with how the $836,520 in general funds for Brookhaven Recreation Department were being used for the various recreation programs.

“On our budget — we’ve done great,” Bates said. “The budget is fine. I know it’s a good one, but there are some items that I can’t vote for. I can’t vote for the entire budget.”

During a previous budget work session, Bates requested that the board consider increasing the recreation department’s budget in order for it to better support the Dr. A.L. Lott Sportsplex in the new fiscal year.

His request came after city clerk Mike Jinks presented the board with the recreation department’s requested budget, which outlined a zero percent increase from last year’s budget of $836,520.

Bates explained at that work session that he volunteered with the sportsplex and baseball league this year, and suggested that the city take over the league.

“I would like for the city to take that back over,” Bates said. “We need to, because it’s suffering. Twenty-seven years ago when I started, we had someone taking care of everything over there. Now we don’t do anything.”

According to Bates, the city previously provided the facility and league with equipment and uniforms, and employed someone to manage it. He previously said he would like all of that to happen again, at the expense of the city.

Ward 5 Aldermen David Phillips said at that previous work session that the Lott league is a self-run organization, which uses the facility.

“The recreation department spends about $30,000 maintaining that facility,” Phillips said. “Now, is that enough? I don’t know, but your statement that they don’t do anything, well, they are.”

The sportsplex is home to two lighted baseball fields, a concession stand, restrooms and a lighted basketball court, according to the Brookhaven Recreation Department’s website.

Bates explained that until the board sat down and revamped the recreation budget, he could not vote for the general fund budget.

“I don’t think the money is spread out all over the city equally,” he said.

Mayor Joe Cox stopped Bates’ objections.

“Let me just stop this right now because we had an opportunity at our last work session to have the recreation come and discuss this with us and you opted not to invite them,” he said.

Bates said he did not invite the department to a work session because he did not believe he had enough support from the rest of the board for that to make a difference.

All of the aldermen, except for Bates, approved the five items without question. Since the aldermen grouped the five items together for the vote, Bates offered the lone no vote. Jinks said he would note that Bates approved everything but the general fund budget.

Jinks said he the budget won’t cause an increase to the city’s millage.