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Mount Carmel's proposed 2019-20 budget has no frills, no tax increase

Jeff Bobo • May 22, 2019 at 7:40 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen is hanging on to a $36,000 surplus in its proposed 2019-20 budget, although some ideas discussed during Tuesday’s workshop could make it disappear in a hurry.

The BMA will consider approval of the first reading of its 2019-20 general fund and sewer budgets when it meets in regular session Thursday evening.

Aldermen Pat Stilwell and Carl Wolfe both stated they would like to see more officers on the Mount Carmel Police Department, particularly working at night.

Currently the MCPD has five full-time officers and the chief, and it is budgeted for a sixth officer, who will be hired at some point during the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The MCPD also has a pool of about seven part-time officers to draw upon, most of whom work full time for the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.

Current staffing allows for only one officer on duty during the night shift, which is the most dangerous time.

Wolfe said he would like to see two officers on duty at night. Stilwell asked about the possibility of adding another full-time police officer.

City Manager Mike Housewright noted, however, that hiring an extra full-time officer would more than eliminate the projected $36,000 surplus in the proposed budget.

Housewright said there’s nothing left to cut in that spending plan, which he described as a bare bones, no frills budget that maintains existing services with no extras.

The good news is there’s no proposed property tax increase. Mount Carmel's 2018-19 budget included a 29 cent property increase from $1.38 to $1.67.

There’s also $175,000 budgeted for paving, and Housewright is working with Public Works Director Jason Salyer on a paving priority list.

Mount Carmel is also projected to end the current fiscal year with a budget surplus of more than $400,000, which can partly be attributed to the city being understaffed throughout the current fiscal year.

Housewright said there are some pending capital projects that need to be addressed which may bite into that $400,000.

At the top of the priority list is repairing the concrete pad in front of the fire department and the purchase of a new police car.

There are also several overdue facility improvements and repairs that might be addressed with that $400,000.

The most controversial change to the proposed 2019-20 budget might be a reduction in the Senior Center’s annual contribution from $30,000 to $25,000.

In 2018-19, that contribution was reduced from $36,000.

The city is projected to end the current fiscal year with a total reserve fund of $3.97 million.

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