published Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Bradley County prepares for another tough budget year

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County is facing another tight budget year, but salary increases may be considered.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis last week presented county commissioners a budget to consider for the fiscal year starting July 1. Overall, the budget requests exceed last year's budget by 1.7 percent.

Of 60 departments in the county's general fund, only 24 or 25 requested budget increases, while at least nine departments asked for less money than this year, Davis said.

"Not that they don't necessarily need more money, but they realize it's going to be another tough budget year, so they're telling you up front that they're going to try to live within the budget we had the last year," he said.

"I think everyone's done their part to carry the burden and get us through this tough economic time," said Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the Finance Committee. "Probably in 2015/2016, we'll begin to enjoy the benefits of some of the expansions that we've been funding."

Davis said the county continually tries to increase the general fund balance so that it approaches a reserve equivalent to 15 percent of expenditures. The next fiscal year could see that percentage fall to between 13 percent and 15 percent. A 20 percent reserve would be ideal, he said.

Commissioners also should consider employee raises, Davis said, citing state employee salary increases -- which also benefit elected officials -- as a driving factor.

"I don't think it's right for elected officials to get a raise without their employees getting a raise," Davis said. "My goal is to have some kind of salary increase in there, also."

Any raise will be in addition to the 1.7 percent budget increase already requested. Bradley County employees received a 1.6 percent salary increase in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Regarding the county's long-range financial plan, Davis said he does not expect many changes in revenue streams in the next year or two.

The county mayor's office will present revenue projections to county commissioners in two weeks. Davis said the finance department prefers to get 10 months of revenue data so projections can be as accurate as possible.

The Bradley County Finance Committee will meet May 1 to review budget requests and to schedule budget hearings, which will take place May 7 and continue May 9, if necessary.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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