With revenue projections looking a little brighter than expected, city leaders approved on final reading Tuesday a 2020-21 fiscal year budget that will leave a general fund balance of around $3.3 million instead of the $118,000 balance approved two weeks earlier.
Hendersonville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed the $59 million budget 12 to 1 on final reading with Mayor Jamie Clary again casting the only no vote. The budget does not require a property tax increase, and keeps the tax rate at 91 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Clary voted against the budget, proposed by Interim City Administrator Dave LeMarbre and sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Arlene Cunningham, two weeks ago arguing that it contained a $4 million deficit and left a fund balance that was too low.
Clary submitted a proposed amendment to the budget to aldermen via email on Monday that included deep cuts to the city’s fire and parks departments.
When Clary started explaining his amendment during Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Scott Sprouse asked that Cunningham be allowed to present her amendment first since she was the sponsor of the budget ordinance.
Clary denied the request and Sprouse called for a vote. Aldermen voted 10 to 3 to allow Clary to continue.
The mayor’s amendment added $333,000 more for paving, would maintain the mayor’s salary at around $100,000 a year, would hold back funding for two long-term road projects and made cuts to nearly every city department.
Ward 1 Alderman Mark Skidmore asked that Cunningham be allowed to present her amendment in order to compare the two.
“To be honest, I really would like to hear her amendment because she is the finance committee chair,” he said. “This is really going to come down to A or B.”
Cunningham said her amendment would add nearly $1 million in additional revenue from fire department Safer grants and additional sales tax the city had initially underestimated.
Like Clary’s proposal, Cunningham also proposed removing the funding for two road projects – the Saundersville Road LIC project and the construction of the Old Shackle Island/ Walton Ferry roads intersection for the upcoming fiscal year. Both projects are long-term projects with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and likely won’t happen in the next year, Cunningham argued. Cunningham also proposed removing $20,000 from the city’s IT department.
“This amendment was worked on with every single department head, the interim city administrator and the finance director,” said Cunningham.
Clary argued that his proposal leaves the fund balance at around $3.9 million and adds $333,000 for additional paving. The city’s current budget sets aside $2.7 million for paving projects.
Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush was asked how Clary’s proposal would affect his department.
“Sixty-two percent of his cuts [were to my budget,”] said Bush. “Any of these cuts were not discussed with me. There were 28 line items in my budget, and he cut 21 of those items.”
“As much work as was put in this budget, I have no idea how you cut half-a-million dollars out of the fire department,” said Ward 4 Alderman Steve Brown who chairs the city’s public safety committee.
Clary also proposed more than $300,000 in cuts to the city’s parks department, including the funding for events the city is contractually obligated to hold, argued Parks Director Andy Gilley.
Sprouse noted that 62 percent of Clary’s proposal were cuts to the fire department while 35 percent were in the parks department.
“So much of this could be avoided by having conversations with department heads,” said Sprouse.
Aldermen voted down Clary’s amendment 12 to 1. Cunningham’s amendment passed unanimously.
The budget also included an amendment proposed by Clary to add $300,000 for the design of Rockland Road, a project in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The same amendment was proposed in the current fiscal year budget with Clary casting the only no vote. It was unclear Tuesday why the money had to be voted on again.
It also included an amendment by Ward 2 Alderman Pat Campbell to add $22,000 to the city’s revenue from the lease of a cell tower in Drakes Creek Park, and to use that money for security cameras in the park.
An amendment by Ward 1 Alderman Peg Petreilli to add a 1.6 percent cost of living increase for city employees failed 5 to 8 as did an amendment by Clary to remove $160,000 from the parks department, including funding for the city’s Hometown Jam.