WRRWA passes 2005 budget

By Thomas Wilson

   The Watauga River Regional Water Authority passed its 2004-2005 fiscal year budget Monday night with a bit of breathing room to spare.
   WRRWA Executive Director Michael Hughes presented a budget estimating $105,000 in total revenue and $100,980 in expenses for the coming budget year. The authority carried over a fund balance of $32,954 in engineering services and discretionary spending from the previous budget year.
   The authority's budget remained essentially unchanged over the previous year except for increases in legal services and accounting services.
   Projected fees for legal services doubled from $3,600 in FY 2004 to an estimated $7,200 this year. Fees for accounting services were expected to jump $2,500 to $4,500 for the coming year from the selection of an auditing firm to review the authority's annual financial records.
   Hughes' annual salary of $52,000 remained the same as did the board members stipend. Each board member receives $75 for each meeting attended. The board can use $28,600 of Hughes' salary as matching funds for the federal funding grants.
   The authority must select a private company to audit its books under direction from the state Comptroller of the Treasury. Hughes said the Baylor and Backus accounting firm in Johnson City submitted a written proposal with a $2,000 price tag while Blackburn, Childers and Steagall of Johnson City also submitted a bid of $4,000. Hughes said he had a discussion with Ken Kelly of Elizabethton who verbally quoted an audit service fee of between "$1,000 and $2,000".
   Board Member Richard Tester moved to defer selection of one firm until Hughes had solicited and received a written proposal from Kelly.
   The authority is currently relying on federal grants to fund operations. The authority secured a $900,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency last year to fund start-up costs.
   In other business, David Reece, of the Knoxville firm of Jordan, Jones and Goulding, told the board that the company's comprehensive water systems improvements study should be done by October.
   The board also voted to spend $500 this year and next to become a "Tier 3" participant in funding participation in the Tennessee Base Mapping System. Fair has spearheaded the funding effort to raise $89,000 in matching local dollars from the public and private sector to involve Carter County in the state geographic information system.