Sumner County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a combined county government and school system budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year next week, which does not include a property tax increase for residents.
The approximately $355.5 million combined spending plans were approved by the county’s budget committee on June 15. A vote by the full commission is set for June 29.
Unlike in previous years, Sumner County Budget Committee Chairman Chris Taylor said that county departments and elected officials were told this year that additional funding would be limited due to the negative economic impact the pandemic has had locally.
“We had a goal of not having to lay anybody off that was a county employee and making sure we still provided the same level of services that we provided last year,” Taylor added. “Luckily, everybody’s budget this year is going to be neutral and the few that had an increase were ones that we knew were coming and had already discussed it throughout the year.”
No changes are being proposed to the county’s tax rate, which would remain at $2.26 per $100 of assessed value. The rate was raised 34 cents by commissioners last August following a request from the school system to give a $4,000 to each of its certified employees.
The proposed budget would have an estimated ending unassigned fund balance of approximately $15.8 million – a decrease of $2.4 million when compared to the previous year, according to the county’s finance department. The figure includes around $1 million in lost revenue due to shortfalls and additional costs associated with the pandemic.
Despite the decrease, Taylor said the county’s finances are still “really good right now.”
“We’ve planned for a recession for five years,” Taylor added. “It’s here. Everything is working like it’s supposed to, so we’re okay this year and we’ll be okay next year. We’d be okay a third year, but we’d rather not get that deep into our reserves.”
Funding included in the budget includes $450,000 for rural fire protection across the county with more than a dozen fire departments each getting $24,000 like in previous years. An additional $1.2 million in funding would also go to local nonprofits.
County officials also anticipate issuing an $86 million bond later this year to fund the construction of a new criminal justice center and parking garage in downtown Gallatin.
While there is no cost of living increase for county employees included in the budget, Taylor said he hopes to be able to revisit the issue midway through the upcoming fiscal year.
“As projections for revenue come in, if they start coming in positive which we expect them to do as the economy reopens… we can look at trying to do a cost of living adjustment for the employees and the people that really need it,” Taylor added.
Last month, the Sumner County School Board unanimously approved a $283.5 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget includes $1.3 million for school supplies that are normally purchased by parents.
Expenditures that will be paid for by a county commission capital fund include $1.6 million for 15 new school buses along with $1 million for new textbooks and $200,000 for paving.
The Sumner County Commission meeting will be held at the Sumner County Administration Building in Gallatin on Monday, June 29 beginning at 7 p.m. A public hearing regarding the proposed county government and school system budgets will be held prior to the vote.
Tena Lee contributed to this report.