First draft of Johnson City budget bullish on sales tax revenues

Gary B. Gray • Apr 27, 2012 at 8:53 AM

A first draft of Johnson City’s general fund budget reveals a roughly $3 million projected increase, a significantly reduced amount for capital projects and a surprisingly optimistic outlook on sales tax revenues.

The 2013 fiscal year projected general fund of $75,274,335 is balanced, and no new property taxes are being proposed. That amount is up nearly $3 million compared to this fiscal year, or about 4 percent. The city’s total budget for FY 2011-12 is $217 million, and a large part of that total for the coming fiscal year will come from the anticipated $65 million Johnson City Schools budget.

And just when you think people are not spending, Johnson City is forecasting all local taxes to account for more than $60 million next year, a more than $3 million or 5.2 percent increase over this year.

“That’s amazing when you think about the shape the economy is in,” said Commissioner Clayton Stout.

Local option sales tax alone accounts for nearly half the expected gain at more than $1.3 million, an increase of more than 7 percent over this year. The next highest projected gain comes from delinquent taxes, followed by hotel/motel tax, business tax and taxes on liquor and beer.

Meanwhile, the city’s fund balance is estimated for FY ‘13 at $12.6 million, about $346,000 or 2.8 percent more than this year. However, about $3 million of that will be set aside for capital projects, equipment and street resurfacing.

With the vast majority of spending for the new $15 million Memorial Park Community Center and school construction beginning to slide out of the financial picture, one line item about to have a big drop is capital expenditures. That is expected to fall by half — from about $8 million to more than $3.6 million.

Still, several big projects are in the works. Three will cost $1 million or more, including remaining work at the community center, Freedom Hall improvements and Johnson City Juvenile Court’s move to the renovated Seniors Center.

Last year, Commissioners Ralph Van Brocklin and Stout voted to not approve the budget, citing concerns about special appropriations funding. Commissioners had to hold two special meetings within one week to provide the required number of public readings of the budget and have it passed in time for a July 1 deadline. The budget unanimously passed on third reading.

This fiscal year, the total expense for special allocations, including agencies and nonprofits, is $511,000. That is projected to drop to about $413,000, and that is mainly due to the one-time allocation this year of $100,000 to help complete construction of the Johnson City/Washington County Veterans Memorial.

This is an item commissioners are likely to thoroughly rake through.

Finally, the city’s service-related employees — police, fire and other departments, for example — will get a 3 percent merit/cost of living raise. Currently there are 530 full-time employees, 35 part-time employees and 10 frozen or unfunded positions. These positions do not include administrative and other positions.

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