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Elizabethton Electric Department once again thinking about its future independent existence

John Thompson • Mar 21, 2019 at 9:32 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A lot of budgetary decisions for the Elizabethton Electric Department were placed on hold for the past year because of a possible sale of the utility to BrightRidge of Johnson City.

Now that the sale is no longer being considered, Elizabethton Electric Department General Manager Rob Toney is beginning to consider the future of the utility and opened the discussion Thursday on upcoming financial matters.

Toney’s discussion came during the third workshop held by the Elizabethton City Council as it prepares to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020.

Just looking at the bottom line, there does not appear to be much change for the new fiscal year. Toney’s proposed budget is about $130,000 less than this year’s budget. His proposed budget is $60,216,071 instead of the $60,345,162 for this year’s budget.

Toney discussed the need to keep the salary paid to its linemen at a competitive rate. He said the comprehensive salary study conducted by the city last year was done by someone who had not studied electric salaries before.

Another concern was the future configuration of the utility. Would it continue to be a department of the city, or would it revert back to the Elizabethton Electric System, with the City Council acting as the board of directors.

Toney said it is difficult to set a bottom line for the budget because so much depends on the severity of the weather.

Another problem in deciding an electric budget is the fact that the utility does not use the same accounting software used by every other department in the city.

Councilman Michael Simerly asked why there was not uniformity.

Elizabethton Finance Director Deborah Kessler said city staff tried for four years to get the city’s electric budget on the same accounting software used by the rest of the city. She said the city’s connection with the Tennessee Valley Authority meant that it must use federal accounting procedures for energy, and some of the different softwares are incompatible.

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