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Despite cuts, $1M needed by UC to balance budget

Despite cuts, $1M needed by UC to balance budget

Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 10:11 pm
By: Donna Ryder Messenger Associate Editor

 By DONNA RYDER Messenger Associate Editor Union City is short on funds and all city departments are being required to make cuts. Interim city manager Kathy Dillon told The Messenger to-day that after several cuts over the past several months, the city still lacks $1 million to balance the budget. General Fund expenses are $11,530,000. It’s not something city council members like, but it’s necessary to keep the city operating. Earlier in the year, the council decided it was not going to dip into the fund balance, which has been reduced drastically over the past several years. They instructed then-city manager Don Thornton that they wanted the city to live within its means. Ms. Dillon said the council cut all capital outlay projects in the General Fund, except those in the fire department’s budget, during the first round of cuts. During the last budget hearing, with the $1 million still short, she said the council decided to make cuts from each department by percentages. For example, the fire department’s expense budget (which includes benefits) is 20.09 percent of the General Fund. Based on that percentage, the department head, Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison, has been asked to cut his budget by $188,652. “How he does that is up to him,” Ms. Dillon said, adding that it has been stated in public that a fire station will be closed but no such closure has been suggested by the council. In comparison, the turf management department has an expense budget of $424,000, which is 3.61 percent. Based on that percentage, department head Chris Crockett is being asked to cut his budget by $15,378. Ms. Dillon added this is after the council had already cut funds for a vehicle, a mower and field grooming supplies from the budget in earlier cuts. Every department either has already been cut or will have to be cut to meet the budget. She said Union City Police Chief Joe Garner has chosen not to fill vacancies as part of his budget cuts. He also removed funds to pay for architectural plans for possible future projects. The planning and codes department has already been cut to the bare bone, she said, adding there are no funds in that department for capital purchases or other expenses. She said they are simply getting enough funds to show up and work. “The city government, all local governments, are not immune to cutbacks the recession has put on us,” Ms. Dillon said. She said families have increased costs in their daily expenses and the city is no different. In addition to increasing costs, the city is also seeing less assistance from the state government. She said state-shared funds, including those derived from sales tax and gasoline tax, have been reduced. “The revenue is not available,” she said, adding the city is going to have to deal with the shortages as a community and everyone is going to have to do their part. The city council is looking at possible increases. All are tentative, Ms. Dillon said, as the final budget has not been finalized. Included in those are a possible property tax increase from $1.81 to $2.10 per $100 of assessed value; a garbage rate increase from $13 to as high as $17 per month; a base water rate increase from $7.20 to $8, with an increase expected in the $2.16 charge per 1,000 gallons of water used; and a base sewer rate increase from $6.78 to $7.50. Appropriations to other agencies will also be cut. Ms. Dillon said the only two contributions not to be reduced are to the Obion County Public Library and to the Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Center. Others have been cut 25 percent to 50 percent or eliminated. The budget is still in the workshop phase. Ms. Dillon said when she receives the department heads’ suggested cuts, she will enter them into the computer and prepare them for the council’s review. Those cuts should be coming to her office throughout the week and it will be about a week before she can get the information ready for the council. At that time, a workshop will be scheduled. It will be open to the public. Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by e-mail at dryder@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 8.11.09

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