The Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen will consider passage of a new $6.3 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year on first reading Monday night.
The proposed budget totals $6-million 358-thousand dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at 64.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. The city property tax rate is budgeted to generate $884,000.
Water and sewer rates are to increase. City water customers are to pay $7.25 per thousand gallons of usage, up from the current rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons. Rates for customers outside the city limits are to pay $10.88 per thousand, an increase from the current rate of $7.50 per thousand gallons. City sewer customers will see an increase from the current rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons plus the flat usage rate of $3.62 to $6.75 per thousand gallons. The rate increase is to help make up the difference in the loss of $775,000 in revenue due to the departure of the DeKalb Utility District as a water customer.
The new budget includes a 2% across the board cost of living pay raise for city hourly and salaried employees except for the police department which already has a wage scale with scheduled step increases for its employees. The cost to the city for the pay raises is $40,000. The city is implementing a new method of awarding Christmas bonuses in the new budget. Bonuses will be paid based on longevity ranging from $250 for employees with up to five years of service to a maximum of $600 for those with more than 20 years of service. Previously, the city has given bonuses at 1% of an employee’s salary paid in December at Christmas time. By making this change, the city will save $2,000.
The budget includes $925,945 in proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund but most of that, $725,945 is for the new fire pumper/rescue truck which the city has ordered and $85,000 for three used police cars and a used investigator’s car which Police Chief Mark Collins has requested.
“I need four cars. I would like to get three cars from Missouri. The Dodge Chargers, I can pick those up. They are regularly $16,900 but the gentleman out there told me if we bought three he would let us have them for $15,500 so that’s $1,400 off of each car. To get those cars equipped will be around $63,000. We also need to replace a detective’s car, an Impala. I would like to get him (detective) an SUV, possibly an Explorer, not marked up but I can’t get that in Missouri. There’s about an eight month waiting list for that there. Maybe we can find one of those (SUVs) a lot closer. We don’t need a police package for that vehicle. If all else fails we can get another Charger for him from Missouri,” said Chief Collins.
The chief also requested that another employee position be created for the police department but that may not be funded this year due to concerns of a possible budget deficit by this time next year.
“I would like to ask for a new employee. This employee would be responsible for court. He would go to court every time court is going on just to represent us in court. That would free up (city hall employee who currently goes to court) with her responsibilities downstairs. We wouldn’t be a woman short in the office at city hall. I would also like to train this person to be able to be in (the office of the police department records clerk) when she is on vacation or out sick. It doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen. I would also like to use this new employee to represent the police department at the elementary schools and possibly teach classes on bullying and things like that. He would also be used as an extra man on a shift in an emergency or to fill in on a shift,” said Chief Collins.
A total of $50,000 has been included for the city hall building, most of which is expected to be used to make repairs to the elevator at city hall after lightning from a recent thunderstorm put it out of commission. The budget includes $15,000 to add side loaders to garbage trucks as the city prepares to convert to a new street side automated side loader garbage collection system. A total of $2,000 has been added to purchase software and handheld scanners for more efficient processing of water bill collections especially at the city hall drive through window.
Aldermen Josh Miller requested that the city’s allocation to the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad be increased by $500 from $1,500 to $2,000. That request will be funded.
Fire Chief Charlie Parker asked that the city fund another full time firefighter position, a request which the city doesn’t plan to meet this year. The chief also asked that the city increase insurance coverage for firefighters. “I would like to take out a different firemen insurance policy that we have right now. It needs to be updated. I have a price from an insurance company that covers fire departments and the price they quoted would be about $900 to $1,000 more than the one we have right now. This will better take care of the firefighters in addition to worker’s compensation in case they were to get hurt and had to be out of work,” said Chief Parker. If approved the city would take bids later this year.
The city is expected to wrap up the 2016-17 general fund budget year June 30 in the red by $640,150 primarily due to the city’s purchase of a new automated side loader sanitation truck and new garbage collection containers which costs $350,000 and for the city’s matching construction costs of the new Holmes Creek Bridge which was $111,485. The total bridge project cost $723,000 but the state paid most of it at $611,515. Another factor adding to the deficit is the city’s $350,000 cost for street paving. A total of $201,000 has already been spent for paving this year with more expected. If the city does finish the year with a deficit, the difference will be drawn from the general fund surplus to balance the budget.
For the 2017-18 year, the city is projected to end the year on June 30, 2018 with a general fund deficit of $802,840, most of which is due to the new fire pumper/rescue truck at $725,840 and for the purchase of four used police cars at $83,000. Again, should the city end the fiscal year in the red, the difference will be taken from the general fund surplus to balance the budget.
Jackson cautioned the mayor and aldermen about making too many large expenditures at once warning that city revenues over the last ten years have been largely stagnant while spending has increased and that large projects can have a negative impact on the city’s surplus reserves.
The city’s water and sewer fund is expected to end the fiscal year June 30 with a surplus of $242,179 but even after the rate increases the water and sewer fund is expected to only break even after the departure of DUD as a water customer. The city is underway with a sewer plant rehabilitation project which is costing $2,750,000 and $40,000 for tube settlers for the water plant. To help pay for the cost of the sewer plant project, the city was awarded a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $525,000 from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Although the grant will fund part of the costs, the bulk of the funding to pay for it will be appropriated from the city's water and sewer fund surplus.
The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen will meet in regular monthly session Monday night, June 5 at 6:00 p.m. at city hall. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.