Budget comes to council this week

By Thomas Wilson

   After two consecutive years of double-digit budget cuts, Elizabethton City Council members will review the city government's proposed 2005 fiscal year budget that contains a 5 percent increase in the general fund.
   The city government's proposed 2004-2005 proposed general fund budget comes in at $11,944,927 - a 5.4 percent increase over the current year. The general fund budget increase accommodates group insurance and other fixed costs. The council is expected to review the ordinance approving the budget on first reading at its May meeting Thursday night.
   General fund budgets submitted by city administration for 2003 and 2004 fiscal years cut spending by 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Despite the marginal increase in the general fund budget, the city is not on a spending spree. Three personnel positions in city government will not be filled and no new hiring is planned under the budget proposal.
   Capital project requests made by city department heads were recommended for funding on a priority basis. City employees will receive a 2.5 percent cost-of-living pay raise but no step pay raise based on their time of service with the city.
   "The employee step plan has not been funded for three straight years," said Brad Moffitt, city director of finance.
   The general fund increase reflects fixed costs of rising group health insurance for city employees, higher fuel prices and a higher surcharge for city retirees assessed for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System among other fixed costs projected for the coming year.
   Proposed special appropriations remain the same from the current fiscal year. Council members lowered the city's 2004 appropriation to the 911 District during the current fiscal year to match the Carter County government's $80,750 appropriation.
   The budget includes state-shared revenues city officials expect to be withheld by the state government for the second straight year. The shared revenue shortfall is estimated to cost the city's general fund $150,000.
   City Council members reviewed the city's proposed fiscal year 2005 budget during two workshops held last week at City Hall. While Moffitt and city administration expect sales tax revenues to rise after the new Wal-Mart and Lowe's superstores open their doors later this year, they do not expect those revenues to substantially boost the local economy until the 2006 fiscal year.
   Special appropriations funded in the city's 2004-2005 budget include:
   -$28,520 Carter County Health Department
   -$80,750 Carter County 911 Comm. District
   -$36,000 Elizabethton Seniors Citizens Center
   -$10,000 Local Planning Office
   -$35,000 Economic Development Commission
   -$22,000 Carter County Rescue Squad
   -$14,175 State Vocational Training Center at Elizabethton
   -$12,000 Shepherd's Inn
   -$10,000 Elizabethton/Carter County Boys & Girls Club
   -$3,004 First Tennessee Development District
   -$3,255 Elizabethton Community Day Care Center
   -$2,200 Soil Conservation District
   -$1,500 Holiday Lighting Committee
   -$1,100 Carter County office of the American Red Cross
   -$1,100 Dawn of Hope
   The council will also consider a resolution that bans future parking on the Elk Avenue Bridge, which has undergone an almost yearlong restoration. The Tennessee Department of Transportation used federal transportation fund dollars to renovate the bridge prohibiting parking, according to the resolution.