The Jonesborough Board of Mayor & Alderman on Thursday gave first reading approval budget ordinances for a total $12.9 million 2013-2014 budget that includes no increases in property taxes or service rates and fees, and a 5 percent across the board pay raise for town employees.
The ordinances includes a general fund budget of $6,045,430 , a $6,319,430 water fund budget, a $584,100 solid waste fund and a $24,000 drug fund.
With the budget ordinances’ final approval, Jonesborough’s property tax rate will remain at $1.28 per $100 of assessed value and its water/sewer rate and garbage collection fees will stay at their current levels through the end of the next fiscal year.
Because of the cost associated with a planned 6.5-mile extension of the outfall lines from the Jonesborough water treatment plant to the Nolichucky River, Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the town will reassess water/sewer revenues and cost projections again in September and determine if any changes in rates are needed at the time.
The $1.3 million out-fall line extension is being funded through a combination of loans and grants from the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development. Right of way easements are still being negotiated and construction is expected to begin later this year.
Town Administrator Bob Browning said the extension of a new 12-inch water line into out-lying areas served by Jonesborough Water Department is another area where future costs are anticipated.
The new lines are needed to address leaks that are resulting in excessive water loss for which the town is receiving no revenue. While good results are being realized in the Bowmantown community where the water line extension has been completed, Browning leaks in the Limestone area are continuing and are impeding the progress of the line extension and a system-wide replacement of water meters.
?To expedite the line extensions, Browning said the town will be looking at bids and as well as areas of construction where town crews and other existing resources may be utilized.
?Wolfe said the 5 percent pay increase for all town employees is part of a ongoing five-year pay plan adopted by the board two years ago to help the town attract and retain quality employees.
While the pay increase is offset by projected increases in employee health insurance premiums of approximately 3 percent annually, Town Recorder Abbey Miller said the premium increase have so far been nominal as result of a low number of claims and employee health initiatives.
Town Operations Manager Craig Ford, who spearheaded the pay plan’s implementation, said town employees have been very complimentary of the plan that will “finally” put the town at a point at which its pay levels are competitive with other municipalities in the region.
Alderman Homer G’Fellers, a former longtime Jonesborough alderman and mayor who was appointed to the board last year to serve out the unexpired term of former alderman Mary Gearhart, said since his return to the board, he has been very impressed with the progress being made and quality of work being done in Jonesborough.
“As a person who’s seen where we’re coming from,” G’Fellers said, “I have never seen the town in such good shape in the administration and the jobs being performed.”
Miller told the board, overall, the budget was “realistic” and “diligently prepared” by Browning.