City Manager Jerome Kitchens told the Johnson City Press earlier this week the budget contained “nothing very fancy.”
The council did add a bit fanciness to the budget with a couple of amendments that easily passed. Sam Shipley suggested increasing the city funding to the Carter County Rescue Squad from $50,000 to $120,000, which was the amount the city gave the squad last year in a special appropriation. Bob Cable was the only councilman to vote against the amendment.
The council then considered a 1 percent pay raise for city employees. There was also a discussion about the bonus the city presented last year which gave all full-time employees an extra $500 and all part-time employees $250. Richard Tester made a motion that both the 1 percent raise and the same bonus be included in the new budget.
Kitchens said it would take an additional $70,000 for the pay raise and $70,000 more for the bonus. That was in addition to the additional $70,000 for the Rescue Squad. Kitchens said $70,000 had been left unassigned in the new budget and another $70,000 was available through insurance savings and other means. He said the final $70,000 would have to be found through cuts in the budget by the time the council holds its second and final reading.
Tester told the council he would study the budget and present his recommendation at the next reading. The council then approved Tester’s amendment.
The budget passed by a unanimous vote on first reading.
The property tax rate was set at $1.80 per $100 of assessed value. That was the same tax rate as this year, but it will not be the rate that is finally approved. That is because the county recently went through a reappraisal and will soon receive a certified tax rate, which is a revenue neutral amount that will provide the city with the same property tax revenue as this year. Because of the property re-evaluations, some taxpayers will pay more and some less with the certified rate.
Because of economic growth, the city will see an increase next year from $10.2 million to $10.7 coming in to its General Fund.
The budget for the Elizabethton City Schools was also approved on first reading. The system’s general fund is at $21.9 million, which includes a $68,000 increase in operating allocation from the city, the first such increase in over a decade.
In other financial matters, the council approved the acquisition of the 90-year-old Bonnie Kate Theater. The theater will be purchased from lenders who foreclosed on the property last year. The amount of the purchase is $111,700, all of which comes from the Elizabethton/Carter County Community Foundation, in the largest fundraising effort in the foundation’s history. In another part of the purchase, the city will use city funds to purchase the adjoining parking lot for $28,500.
The council did not discuss funding renovations for the city-owned Joe O’Brien Field, where the Elizabethton Twins and Elizabethton High School play their home baseball game. The Minnesota Twins have requested a $1 million renovation of the facility.