County commissioners voted 17-2 to pass the 2022-23 fiscal year county general budget on Monday night.
The new budget is more than $121 million and does not include a tax increase for property owners.
Incoming revenues for the next fiscal year are estimated at $108 million – a $13 million difference in what is needed for the budget.
Commissioner Chris Taylor, who chairs the county’s budget committee, said the additional revenues will come from the rainy day or hospital fund, federal grant monies and the reappropriation of pennies from the county’s debt service fund.
Included in the budget are multiple non-recurring expenses — $7 million for additional construction costs on the new Liberty Creek Middle School beyond the $37 million estimated, $10 million for a TDOT match for the extension of 386 from Long Hollow Pike to SR 109, and a $1.3 million one-time contribution for the county’s 13 volunteer fire departments for heavy equipment.
The budget includes a 4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for county employees at a cost of $2 million. Following a recent pay study, additional pay raises for some employees to bring their salaries up to market average is also included at a cost of $2.5 million.
Taylor said the move was needed to maintain retention of current employees.
“Our whole thing — because it is so hard to hire now – we decided on no new positions, focusing instead on keeping the people we have,” Taylor said.
In addition, $2.9 million to extend the hazard pay another year for first responders including the sheriff’s office, emergency services, and the emergency management agency is included in the 2022-23 budget and will be paid in large part through federal AARPA monies.
County contributions to community agencies and nonprofits will total $463,268 and includes Sumner County Resource Authority ($100,000), Sumner County Airport ($118,000) Regional Transportation Authority ($55,000), Adult Education Program ($40,000), Sumner County Museum ($12,500), Tennessee Small Business Development Center ($7,500), and Ashley’s Place ($7,000).
Other appropriations include a $100,000 contribution to Forward Sumner, and a contribution of $250,000 to the county’s senior tax relief program.
Several amendments were presented that could have taken out the funding for the SR 386 extension, additional salary increases above the 4% COLA, and any capital projects over $1 million.
“I’m not against people getting pay raises – I am against doing more than we can afford,” Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield, one of two voting against the budget – along with Commissioner Merrol Hyde, said.
Throughout the 3-hour meeting, Mansfield stressed that hard economic times were ahead and urged the board to curb any unnecessary spending. All of the proposed amendments to make any cuts failed however.
The commission also approved the school system’s requested budget of $324 million.
Of the county’s anticipated $108 million in new revenues, just over 60 % or $64.8 million will go into the General Purpose School fund.
The 2022-23 fiscal year budget does not include any new issuance of debt. The county’s current debt is just over $275 million.
The rainy-day, or hospital fund, which came from the 1994 sale of the county-owned hospital (formerly Sumner Regional Memorial Hospital), was originally set up for economic development. Since 2011, $9.4 million has been diverted from the fund.
According to County Finance Director David Lawing, after taking out $8.6 million from the current amount of $9.1 million for this year’s budget, the new balance by year’s end will be $480,000.