Hendersonville leaders passed on first reading Tuesday a $61 million 2022 fiscal year budget that includes five more police officers; approximately 20 new police cars, $2.95 million for road paving, and merit increases for all full-time city employees.
Tuesday’s BOMA meeting was in stark contrast to previous first readings of budgets presented by Mayor Jamie Clary – where aldermen spent hours amending the proposal.
Following two budget workshops, Tuesday’s vote was swift – and for the first time since Clary took office in 2016 – unanimous.
“That’s the first time I voted for one of my budgets,” Clary said.
Several aldermen, including Jonathan Hayes of Ward 5 and Arlene Cunningham, who chairs the city’s finance committee, praised Clary for building consensus. They also thanked Finance Director Robert Manning and the city’s new Chief of Operations, Jesse Eckenroth for their input.
“I appreciate what you’ve done with your budget,” Hayes said. Clary had made some initial cuts – mostly to the city’s parks and fire departments — that were restored in the budget presented Tuesday.
“There was a lot of give and take,” Cunningham said during her finance committee report.
Both the property tax rate, which will remain the same at .9187 cents per $100 of assessed property, and the budget passed unanimously with little discussion.
Clary has said he crafted his budget around several common goals expressed at the first budget workshop in April. They included improving the city’s unassigned fund balance; avoiding a tax increase; funding employee raises and presenting a balanced budget. This budget accomplishes three of those goals. The budget includes $59.2 million in revenues – mostly from property taxes and sales tax – and $61.7 million in expenses.
The city’s executive department saw the largest increase at 14 percent. This included salaries for the mayor and the new chief of operations. It also included economic development employee Rod Kirk who had been moved to the city’s planning department under Interim City Administrator Dave LeMarbre.
With this budget, Clary moved Kirk back into the executive department and under the direct supervision of Chief of Operations Jesse Eckenroth, who reports to the mayor.
The city’s police department will see a 10 percent increase in operating expenses. That includes $197,500 to fund five new positions within the fiscal year. Not all of those positions will start right away, however, with two slated to be hired in January. The budget also includes funding for 20 new police cars.
The city’s police and fire departments jointly account for nearly half of the city’s budget with police budgeted to receive $15.1 million – up from $13.7 million allocated in last year’s budget. The fire department will receive $11.7 million – a slight decrease from $12 million spent the year before.
Clary had initially cut the parks department’s operating expenses by 26 percent, most notably allocating $32,000 for special events when $150,000 was requested for activities like the city’s Hometown Jam. Those requests have been funded with the department’s overall budget increasing 1.28 percent.
The budget includes approximately $19,500 more for the Hendersonville Public Library in order for the library to stay open on Fridays. Clary tried to put this in his budget four years ago, but a majority of aldermen failed to support it. The request would require an additional $19,500 from Sumner County, who provides most of the library’s operating costs. The mayor has said that if the county doesn’t pay its $19,500, the city won’t spend that money.
Also included in the 2022 fiscal year budget is a total of $2.95 million for paving throughout the city, as well as funding for the city’s share of several capital projects the city is constructing in conjunction with the state including the Walton Ferry/Old Shackle Island realignment; the Sanders Ferry Road greenway/walking trail; and raising the intersection of Stop 30/Drakes Creek Road out of a flood zone.
The budget includes a 2.5 percent step/merit increase for full-time employees based on a ‘meets’ evaluation on the employee’s anniversary date. There is also a 1.3 percent cost of living adjustment for full-time employees, including the mayor, members of BOMA and hourly employees, including the city judge and the city attorney.
A second and final vote on the 2022 fiscal year budget will take place at the next BOMA meeting on Tuesday, June 22.