After spending three long days last week hearing budget requests from every department and contribution recipient, commissioners reconvened Friday to vote on those requests for the purpose of generating a second 2018-19 budget draft.
None of the decisions made Friday are final. They are instead intended to give budget staff enough information to generate an updated budget proposal to determine where the general fund now stands.
The commission’s next budget workshop is tentatively set for May 31 when it will look at that second draft of the budget and make a decision toward creating a final draft.
Where’s the new revenue coming from?
Due to a reduction in school enrollment, Hawkins County’s maintenance of effort requirement to the school system will be reduced in 2018-19 by $355,000, which the commission voted Friday to return to the general fund.
The general fund’s debt service line item is also expected to receive $720,000 from the sale of the Phipps Bend spec building.
In 2012, the commission loaned $700,000 to the Industrial Development Board to pay off its U.S. Bank construction loan for the structure after it didn’t sell within a two-year grace period.
How will that one-time revenue be utilized?
The county general fund is still recovering from last year’s $2 million revenue deficit and isn’t completely caught up due to the $40 wheel tax being implemented three months into the fiscal year, and then generating revenue from October through April more than $700,000 below projections.
The commission is also facing several unavoidable expenditures including the purchase of 8-10 HCSO patrol cars estimated to cost up to $425,000; a new roof on the Rogersville health department building; a state-mandated sewer upgrade to prevent debris from entering the Rogersville sewer system from the jail; and making court clerk stations in all five county courtrooms bulletproof, which is also a new state mandate.
On Friday, the commission voted to include the patrol car purchases in the next budget proposal and to set aside $250,000 to cover the cost of the roof, sewer and courtroom projects. The intent is to pay for those expenditures from the spec building sale and school fund transfer.
Other budget decisions made Friday:
* Laurel Run Park: Kept $4,000 for part-time help and $1,300 to cover the cost of cable TV for the live-in caretaker.
* Hawkins County EMS: Agreed to increase the annual contribution to $60,000, but denied the request for an additional $30,000 for a new ambulance.
* Industrial Board: Reduced a pay raise request via salary scale bump for IDB Executive Coordinator Rebecca Baker from $6,458 to $2,700.
* County buildings: Declined a request for $25,000 to hire a new maintenance employee.
* Solid waste: Declined a $56,000 request for three new full-time employees, including one for recycling and two for convenience center operators.
* Sheriff’s Office: Aside from the news cars, approved $1,000 for training, $6,000 for part-time help in evidence management and $20,000 for a new walk-in refrigerator for the jail.
* County mayor: Approved $30,000 in discretionary funds to pay retired former staff to ease the transition for the new county mayor and his choice for the new county buildings manager.
* Public safety contributions: Aside from Hawkins County EMS, all other public safety contributions were approved at the same level as 2017-18 including volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, the humane society and the Red Cross.
* No new contributions: The commission denied all new contribution requests including $5,000 for the CEASE domestic abuse assistance program; an additional $1,440 for the Imagination Library; and an additional $5,000 for the Hawkins County Library System.
Future pay scale discussion
Nearly every county officeholder has expressed dissatisfaction with the current pay scale which they said offers no hope to employees that they can ever better their pay. Budget Committee Chairman Stacy Vaughan said he will scheduled a Personnel Committee meeting to begin discussion of adopting a new pay scale.
In the meantime, the commission asked Budget Director Eric Buchanan to calculate the cost of giving every employee paid from within the general fund a 2 percent pay increase in 2018-19. That figure was reported by Buchanan at $178,000, and the commission will decide on May 31 whether to include that expense in the proposed budget.