Jonesborough board OKs budget with no hikes

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 22, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Friday gave final reading approval the town’s 2012-13 budget with a few minor adjustments, including the transfer of nearly $200,000 in additional savings on the town’s recent capital outlay note for water/sewer improvements and debt service refinancing to the plus column of its final $6.1 million general fund budget.

The new budget includes no tax or fee increases for Jonesborough residents and a 5 percent raise for all town employees.

In a summary of the budget’s revisions, Town Administrator Bob Browning reported that payments on the 12-year, $650,000 capital outlay note that was approved by the board earlier this month to complete the town’s downtown streetscape project and its renovation of the former Booker T. Washington School for development of a new performing arts center were added to the $5.6 million general fund budget approved by the board on first reading May 31.

The budget revisions also included an additional $5,800 for six more hours of weekly work for Melinda Copp, Jonesborough’s events coordinator, who has been assigned new duties as coordinator of Jonesborough’s efforts to attain a designation as a Main Street Community. In recommending the increase, Browning said the national Main Street Program, which provides technical assistance, education and other aid for downtown development, offers “a great opportunity to benefit our downtown district.”

The budget revisions did not include funding for an additional patrol officer requested by the police department. Town Operations Manager Craig Ford told the board prior to the budget’s approval on first reading that a new patrol officer position would allow the police department to devote more staff to a large backlog of crime investigations being handled by a single investigator. Wolfe said Friday that funds for the new patrol officer and for needed staff additions requested by other departments are not available at this time.

Browning and Town Recorder Abbey Miller advised the board a recent upgrade in the town’s bond rating allowed a better-than-expected bond sale for refinancing of debt service on water/sewer improvements that increased projected savings from $1.47 million to $1.6 million. Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the two-level bond rating increase to “A+” was awarded with a notation of the town’s “stable growth, low debt, good management and good financial outlook.”

Following its approval, Wolfe applauded town staff for work on the budget, saying “we’re doing what we need to do. And we’re doing right by our employees.”

Friday’s specially called meeting also included the board’s first-reading approval of lease agreements with Jonesborough United Methodist Church for two large gravel lots located along Little Limestone Creek at First and Second avenues to be used for development of downtown tourism infrastructure — one for re-construction of the original Chuckey depot for use as a railroad museum and the other for a major expansion of downtown parking.

The 15-year lease agreement on the parking lot located behind the church on the south side of Little Limestone Creek at First Avenue requires the town pave the lot by Aug. 1, 2013. The lease includes a 15-year renewal option for the town and an option-to-build clause for the church that, after the first five years, will allow the church to terminate the lease with a one-year notice of its intent to build on the lot. The agreement also gives the church use of parking area each Sunday as well as access to the lot for fundraising activities during the annual Jonesborough Days and storytelling festivals.

The 25-year lease on the church lot located west of Second Avenue between the creek and railroad track is proposed for the location of the original train depot in the Chuckey community that was disassembled and stored by the town last year with the goal of reconstructing the depot in the downtown historic district for use as railroad museum.

The lease also includes a 15-year renewal option for the town and a requirement for the town to pave the lot by August 2013. Both agreements include easements for development of Jonesborough’s Lost State Scenic Walkway.

In his recommendation for the agreements’ approval, Browning said “we need additional parking downtown, the walkway easement and the depot site. The church needs a good parking area for their church activities and their ability to use the lots on Sundays is preserved.”

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