For more than two hours the mayor and council, along with City Manager Chris Dorsey and staff, pored over the proposed East Ridge city budget, Friday afternoon during a workshop at City Hall.
After all the questions – mostly by Councilman Jacky Cagle – and explanations by staff, the mayor and council made no attempt to alter the $13.8 million 2020 General Fund Budget.
City Manager Dorsey related at the beginning of the meeting that this budget was formulated by his predecessor and city staff. His first day on the job was in May, and that he reviewed some of the budget as early as March.
However, Dorsey said that next year’s budget “will look different,” and be “much more user-friendly.”
Mayor Brian Williams said that some media reports that the City was using $646,000 from its reserve funds to balance the 2020 budget was wrong. Williams said that money is being used for the city’s portion ($500K) of funding the “splash pad” at the new Pioneer Frontier playground, and the city’s portion ($164K) of a state grant for the multi-modal project on Ringgold Road.
Right out of the block, Councilman Cagle stated that the “numbers don’t match.” He bemoaned there was no total number of employees shown for the parks and recreation department. He asked “why isn’t there a $1 million in the budget for Parks and Rec?”
Dorsey explained that he intended to address the 30-page document section by section, and line by line. As Dorsey began, he noted that a “main difference” in General Fund revenues was local taxes. The actual number in the non-audited 2018 budget was $10.5 million. In the 2020 proposed budget, Dorsey is estimating that number to be $9.1 million.
Click on the link below to view the entire budget: http://eastridgetn.gov/getattachment/Home/Proposed-FY-2020-Budget.pdf.aspx
Dorsey said that in the past some numbers have been overestimated. One reason for that, he said, was that some businesses that city officials anticipated being open for business were delayed, for various reasons.
“One thing that is important to me is not project ahead of something that is not here yet,” he said. “I’m being conservative.”
On the expenditures side, Dorsey noted that the 2020 budget calls for a 3 percent across-the-board raise for full-time employees. That figure amounts to $191,000. In addition, there is a 6 percent increase in the cost of providing health insurance to employees.
Expenditures in City Court are projected lower. Court Clerk Patricia Cassidy said that is due to the retirement of a long-time employee’s retirement, and that position being replaced by a person at an entry-level position.
Spending on the East Ridge Police Department ($4.4 million) shows a slight decrease.
Spending on the East Ridge Fire Department is “stable.” The ERFD is budgeted at $2.196 million.
Fire Chief Mike Williams noted that the department needs a 170-foot ladder truck. Estimates on the cost is $1.3 million. It was noted that the purchase of that piece of equipment could be eligible for reimbursement from the state under the Border Region Act.
Spending in the Street Department was reduced by about $100,000. That savings came from paying an employee partially from another department. Spending in the Traffic Department and Code Enforcement were about the same as in 2019.
During discussions of Parks and Recreation, it was noted that some employees (21 full-time, 8 part-time) have been moved around and there salaries are being paid out of parks and recreation.
Between the General Recreation Fund, Camp Jordan Arena, the Community Center, the East Ridge High School Sports Complex, the McBrien School Complex, Soccer, Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Adult Softball the city has budgeted $1.589 million.
The Solid Waste Fund’s budget remains steady with spending in 2020 being $1.5 million. About $200,000 is being used for the purchase of a new side-loading garbage truck.
City Manager Dorsey said that the Sanitation Department has one less employee in 2020, as supervisor Melvin Petty retired and he was replaced by his assistant, Robert Parker.
Councilman Cagle said that he would like to see the city get away from side-loader trucks, what he called “one-armed bandits.” He noted that the rear-loading trucks hold more garbage. He also suggested the city add more routes to its weekly pickup.
The council may vote to pass the 2019-20 budget at its next meeting on June 13. Dorsey had previously noted that the budget ordinance can be amended between first and second readings.
Click on the link below to view video of the budget workshop:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE4K_MQPgUQ&feature=youtu.be