Foster Explains County Budget in WJLE Interview

July 31, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

The DeKalb County Commission is scheduled to act on approval of budgets for all county departments for the 2011-12 fiscal year and establish the property tax rate for the year during a special meeting scheduled for Monday, August 8 at 6:00 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. Action on passage of the new budgets and tax rate will take place after a public hearing, scheduled for 5:00 p.m..

Total appropriations come to $37-million 154-thousand 087 dollars.

(CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO VIEW PDF OF ACTUAL PROPOSED BUDGET FOR ALL COUNTY DEPARTMENTS FOR 2011-12

Dekalb 2012 Budget.pdf (196.53 KB)

The county budget committee is recommending that the new tax rate be set at $1.62 per $100 of assessed value, a ten cent increase above the new certified rate of $1.52 established by the state after reappraisal.

County Mayor Mike Foster, in an interview with WJLE Thursday, said that while a tax increase is being proposed, the new budget does not include any extra frills. "Overall we've tried to stay pretty well the same as the budget we had last year except there's a little bit of stuff in there to cover some utilities, insurance costs that went up. There's a little bit in there for pay raises. We budgeted five cents (tax increase) for schools and that covers their raises and we budgeted five cents (tax increase) for the county. That covers nearly most of their raises as well," said Foster.

Some county officials have said that their new budgets have been cut somewhat in certain line items from this past year which will absorb the pay raises that will be given to their employees.

While projections for the new budget year show the county going into the red, Foster said he is hopeful that all departments will spend less and stay under budget again this year, just as most did this past year. "We show going a little bit into the red. We did that last year too but actually every budget was under budget so we still came in actually ahead with expenditures about $400,000 less than revenues," said Foster.

So why then a need for a tax increase? Foster answered "Because you never know what your expenditures are going to be. Your budget is kind of a guess. You try to guess your expenditures high and your revenues low and hope that it comes out like it should. We try to budget five or six percent under and over, that way you hopefully can come out right. For example, in July of this year you don't know what diesel is going to be costing in December. You don't know what electricity might be and other things that are very much unknown. You could have two central units go out. We have to account for all that. So you over bid expenditures a little bit and you usually underbid revenues a little bit. I feel that most people are doing a good job with their budgets. I think in the times we are in we don't need to be increasing (the number of) positions. We're trying to protect the people we have rather than trying to increase (the number of employees). There may come a time when we have to cut some people (positions)," said Foster

Under the county budget committee's recommendation, five cents of the tax hike would go for schools and the other nickel increase would be for county general. The proposed tax rate, as recommended by the county budget committee, breaks down as follows:

County General: 83 cents
Highway/Public Works: 3 cents
General Capital Projects- 9 cents
Debt Service-12 cents
General Purpose Schools- 55 cents

The solid waste fund does not receive any property tax money. The fund is supported by revenues derived from payment-in-lieu of taxes, local option sale taxes, hotel-motel tax, bank excise tax and wholesale beer tax, etc. Up until two years ago, the solid waste fund was supported by a portion of the property tax rate. Since then the tax rate previously designated for solid waste, 20 cents, has been added to the general fund.General services charges include $90,000 in tipping fees. Total revenues for solid waste from local and state sources comes to $1,357,220. County Mayor Foster said that total solid waste expenditures are projected to be $1,460,860, up from last year's budget of $1,400,231. "It's up a little bit but there's $120,000 in there for depreciation which rolls over and comes back in (to the budget) and the state requires us to put in $200,000 for post closure. That means (money has to be in the budget) in case we have to do some work at any of these other old landfills that have been closed for up to thirty years. In reality we know its actually going to be about $51,000 this year that we will be doing. So actually there's about $270,000 that the state requires us to put in there which we are 99% sure we won't spend. So it's stable. There are no new positions. There was a (rollback) truck in last year's budget that we've rolled over into this year's budget,' said Foster.

One cent of the tax rate generates $42,389 in local money with a 5.85% delinquency rate figured into the equation.

The new budget includes a new four tiered salary pay scale for employees of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department to bring their salaries more in line with other law enforcement agencies in the area. All other full time county employees are budgeted a $1,000 pay raise for the year, which equates to about a 50 cent per hour increase.

Last year, the county budgeted money to fund an animal control officer but that position was not filled. This year funds for that position, $25,000, will be re-allocated to fund a director position at the new county administrative office complex still under construction on South Congress Boulevard. Four county officials from the courthouse, the Register of Deeds, Assessor of Property, Trustee, and County Clerk and their staffs are scheduled to move to their new offices in the old Town and Country Shopping Center location on Thursday, August 18.

The costs to the county for the new administrative building including purchase price and renovation expense is expected to be $3.2 million unless other change orders or add-ons are required before the entire project is finished. The re-payment schedule on the five million dollars borrowed to pay off previous obligations and to purchase and renovate this building is for fifteen years at a locked in rate of three percent. Yearly payments are to be $409,000 compared to $469,000 under the previous six year debt repayment schedule at 5.8%. The county is scheduled to receive $50,000 a year in rental payments from tenants in a portion of the building, including UCHRA. General fund utilities expense for county buildings combined is budgeted to go from $75,000 last year to $150,000 in the new budget. County Mayor Foster said about $50,000 of the increase for utilities is due to the new administrative building

The budget again provides local property tax relief of up to $50 for those who qualify for the state property tax relief program.

Capital projects fund expenses include:

"Motor Vehicles" Ambulance-$80,000 (to re-do an existing ambulance, placing a new chassis with an old box remount)

"Furniture and fixtures" (shopping center building)-$150,000 (carry-over expense from last year)

"Motor vehicles" category for patrol cars and or fire truck- $80,000 (money allocated for any emergency vehicle needed during the year)

"Law enforcement equipment" fire department- $31,000 (carry-over expense from last year to be used to purchase an older model equipment truck for the county fire department)

County Fire Chief Donny Green's request for $180,000 to purchase a new fire pumper to replace the Midway engine which is a 1979 model will apparently not be met for now. The truck has not been included in the budget. But in addition to an older model equipment truck, the department may also get to fund replacement of a portion of turnout gear and breathing cylinders.

"Other construction" is caution lights- $30,000 (to purchase and install caution lights at the intersection of State Highway 83 and U.S. 70 near Kilgore's Restaurant)

"Building Construction" Administration Building- $1,300,000 (carry over-expense from last year- About $700,000 to $800,000 left to be spent from remaining borrowed funds to finish rehab construction work on county administrative building)

"Solid Waste Equipment"- $145,000 (to purchase roll back garbage truck)

"Other construction" for various projects-$18,000 (for roof repairs to Omega Apparel building and for work to be done to 911 building)
Total: $1,834,000

A total of $183,053 in gifts and contributions to local libraries, which have been previously kept in a bank account, must now be accounted for as a line item in the county general budget for libraries by recommendation of state auditors.

As for schools, County Mayor Foster insists that the county is adequately funding schools with local money at more than $4.5 million dollars and is exceeding the state's BEP required local match for schools "by about $250,000".

"Schools have gone from over $11- million dollars nine or ten years ago to $19.9 million dollars today and that does not include the $2.8 million federal budget that goes in there for the cafeteria fund which kind of funds itself in that people buy meals but there's also some federal money in there for low to moderate income people," said Foster.

The General Purpose Schools budget totals $19,932,993. The property tax rate for schools as recommended by the budget committee is 55 cents per $100 of assessed value, five cents more than last year but not as much as the school board has requested. In addition to the $2-million 331-thousand 429 for schools generated by the 55 cent tax rate, the county commission is expected to transfer $1-million 540 thousand from the local purpose tax fund (sinking/local sales tax fund) to help operate schools this year along with $570,645 to fund the school debt service for payment on the Northside Elementary School and roof at Smithville Elementary School. The school system also gets $55,954 from Trustee's Collections (prior years), $30,309 from Circuit Clerk and Masters collections (prior years), $12,823 in interest and penalty, $8,603 in pick up taxes, and $1,000 in bank excise taxes. The total appropriation of local funds for schools is $4,550,763. The state BEP allocation for schools is $13-million 198-thousand dollars, an increase from last year's budget of $12,508,000. The school system also receives, according to County Mayor Foster, some $2.8 million in federal funding in addition to local and state appropriations.

The school board initially adopted a tentative budget requesting a seventeen cent property tax rate increase for schools to fund pay raises for personnel and to add some new positions in the new budget. The county budget committee rejected the request for new money, except for pay raises. The committee asked the school board to make cuts in their proposed budget. The school board later revised its proposed budget and brought back a proposal asking for an eleven cent tax increase and more money from the sales tax or sinking fund to meet their budget request. The county budget committee again rejected the proposed spending plan but voted to recommend a consolidated budget that includes a five cent tax increase for schools to send to the county commission. Although neither the budget committee nor the county commission can dictate how the school board spends the money, the proposed five cent tax increase is just enough to cover the proposed pay raises for school personnel.

The school board has proposed a 3.2% pay raise for support staff or non-certified personnel and a 1.6% local increase to match the state's 1.6% pay hike for certified personnel (teachers)..

The school board, according to its revised plan, seeks to add the following new positions:

A new fifth grade teaching position at Northside Elementary School.
An additional math teacher at DeKalb County High School
An assistant band teacher
A support staff site coordinator at DCHS
A special education teacher at DCHS
Three new assistant principals (one at each DeKalb West, Northside Elementary, and Smithville Elementary School)

The school board's revised budget adds local funding back to the general fund for three teaching positions and an educational assistant, which for the last two years have been paid for with federal stimulus or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that have now been exhausted

Also remaining in the spending plan are requests for the following increases:
Textbook adoption (Math)- $40,000
Minimal increase in utility costs- $6,000
Increase in maintenance of plant supplies- $23,000

The county commission will be asked Monday, August 8 to either approve or reject the school board's revised budget request or to approve or reject the county budget committee's recommendation.

The ambulance service budget estimates expenditures to be $1,223,451 for the year, an increase from last year's budget of $1,138,558. Estimated revenues for the new year are projected to be $1,014,938 including $990,000 in patient charges.

Three cents of the property tax rate, $127,169 helps support the county highway department along with a mineral severance tax, $25,000, Other than that, Foster said all of the county road department's budget is funded by state allocations, mostly state gas tax revenues

Here's how much each fund is expected to collect from local property tax dollars:

Net Estimated Collections:
County General- $3,518,339
General Purpose Schools- $2,331,429
Debt Service- $508,675
Highways/Public Works- $127,169
General Capital Projects- $381,507
Total Tax Levy- $6,867,119

Total Estimated Revenues:
County General- $6,163,103
Highways- $2,075-225
Debt Service-$530,096
General Purpose Schools-$18,942,427
Central Cafeteria- $1,422,000
General Capital Projects-$397,572
Local Purpose Fund-$2,200,000
Drug Control- $34,910
Courthouse/Jail Maintenance-$48,600
Solid Waste-$1,357,220
Total: $33,171,197

Total appropriations for each fund are as follows for the year 2012 compared to 2011
County General- $6,894,857; ($6,339,634 for the year 2011)
Highways- $2,120,663; ($2,109 381 for the year 2011)
Debt Service- $1,103,260; ($1,138,412 for the year 2011)
General Purpose Schools- $19,932,993; ($18,029,136 for the year 2011)
Central Cafeteria- $1,536,450 (1,408,500 for the year 2011)
General Capital Projects- $1,872,369 ($3,511,566 for the year 2011)
Local Purpose Fund- $2,134,845 ($2,144,184 for the year 2011)
Drug Control- $33,535 ($36,003 for the year 2011)
Courthouse/Jail Maintenance- $64,255 ($64,755 for the year 2011)
Solid Waste- $1,460,860; ($1,400,231 for the year 2011)
Total- $37,154, 087 (Total- $36,181,801 for the year 2011)

The beginning Fund Balance for all funds combined (available money) to start the fiscal year July 1st, 2011 was $13,714,698. The ending fund balance by June 30th, 2012 is estimated to be $10,485,506.

Beginning Fund Balance as of July 1, 2011 (Available money as new year begins)
County General: $2,873,097
Highways: $720,875
Debt Service: $1,505,611
General Purpose Schools: $3,425,513
Central Cafeteria (Schools): $447,142
General Capital Projects: $2,219,421
Local Purpose Fund (Sales Tax): $721,245
Drug Control: $36,081
Courthouse/Jail Maintence: $90,905
Education Capital Projects: $3,945
Solid Waste: $1,669,863

The county commission is also expected to adopt a resolution August 8 making appropriations of $133,243 to the following non-profit organizations:

DeKalb Sparks Softball- $150
Upper Cumberland Development District- $3,411
Tennessee Division of Forestry-$1,500
DeKalb County Rescue Squad- $11,500
Plateau Mental Health-$7,180
Families First-$750
Senior Citizens Program-$26,325
DeKalb Soil Conservation District-$29,281
DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce-$15,000
Imagination Library- $7,200
Genesis House- $1,500
DeKalb County Fair- $1,500
WCTE-TV- $5,000
Prospect Incorporated-$12,500
Upper Cumberland Human Resources-$1,200
UCHRA Assessment-Homemaker Aide, etc-$9,245

Dues and memberships:
Upper Cumberland Tourism Association- $300
Tennessee County Services Association- $1,223
Tennessee County Officials Association- $1,985
Tennessee County Sheriff's Association- $1,500
Tennessee County Commissioners Association- $1,350
Upper Cumberland Development District- $3,000
Association of Tennessee Valley Governments- $400
Total dues and memberships- $9,758

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