Council passes budget on first reading

By Thomas Wilson

   Elizabethton City Council voted 7-0, approving the city's 2003-2004 budget at a specially-called meeting Wednesday morning.
   The city's general fund budget comes in at just over $11.4 million. The city budget factored in the 9 percent loss in state-shared revenues for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The city's 2002-2003 general fund budget was cut by 13 percent from the previous year.
   "This is the second straight year we've had a very tough budget, and this one comes without a tax increase," said Mayor Sam LaPorte. "This has been quite a feat."
   The council voted unanimously to maintain the city's real property tax rate at $2.30 per $100 of assessed value and set a city's appropriation of $2.332 million for Elizabethton City Schools. The council voted in a new water and sewer rate increase for city and regional water customers in January.
   City Manager Charles Stahl told council members there was a possibility the state revenue cut could be 7 percent depending on actions of the General Assembly. However, he said after the meeting that hope may be overly optimistic.
   Councilman Richard Sammons was optimistic the city would reap benefits of an economic upswing in the coming year at the state and national level. "When this round of tax cuts are passed, I think it is going to have a surprising effect on this economy," he said.
   The city's capital budget included the issuance of $1 million in bonds to fund several capital projects including the demolition of the Carter County Memorial Hospital building, which is expected to take up to $500,000 of the capital allocation. Designated capital expenditures include a $230,000 fire pumper truck, $200,000 for street paving projects, $33,000 for a mobile command center for the fire department, and $30,000 to replace the roof on the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center.
   Stahl advised the council that the city had been awarded a $50,000 safety grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to pave a portion of Siam Road. The grant funds paving a 1.14-mile section from the Bluefield Avenue/Siam Road intersection to Don Wilson Road. The grant is funded 90 percent by the state and 10 percent by the city.
   Siam Road had been on the short list of potential paving projects under the city's capital budget.