published Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Cleveland budget proposes high school gym, employee merit pay raises

Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel
Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel
  • photo
    Cleveland High School's Raider Dome, which houses the school's gymnasium, has been closed because of structural problems.
    Photo by Paul Leach.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Highlights of Cleveland's proposed 2014-15 budget include a $6 million general fund draw toward construction of a new gym at Cleveland High School and 3.5 percent merit pay increases for city and utility employees.

In a recent meeting, City Manager Janice Casteel and city department heads reviewed the $241.8 million budget proposal -- which amounts to a 2.3 percent increase over 2013-14 expenditures -- with the Cleveland City Council.

The merit increase is needed because of the compaction of salaries, Casteel said, citing examples such as new police officers making as much as six-year veterans of the Cleveland Police Department.

"Our pay plan is not working for us," she said. "We are trying to help keep it competitive."

The proposed increase will require $807,000 from the city's general fund, according to proposal documents.

The $6 million general fund allocation for the new high school gym represents only part of the city's commitment to the capital project. In March, the City Council voted 4-2 to fund up to $12 million to the project, relying on the city's $12.3 million reserve.

Since then, Cleveland City Schools has promised to cap expenses at $11 million after receiving a request to contribute $1 million to the project.

Cleveland High School lost the use of its gym in December, when it was closed after an unfavorable structural analysis of the Raider Dome, which houses the facility.

On the revenue side, the general fund will see a $1.38 million increase over the 2013-14 fiscal year, Casteel said.

About $1.1 million of the increase is attributable to local tax revenues, she said.

Casteel said property tax revenues are expected to increase by 2.9 percent, and sales tax revenues are expected to increase by 3.3 percent.

Charges for services dropped by $329,000, mostly due to the end of Bradley County's longstanding contact with Cleveland Animal Control, which provided animal pickup and shelter services for county residents who live outside city limits.

Animal Control's proposed $568,000 budget for 2014-15 reflects a $74,000 reduction through the transfer of two employees to the Public Works Department as a result of the end of the service contract with the county, Casteel said.

City Councilman Richard Banks questioned the possibility of eliminating another $160,000 of the animal control budget by closing Cleveland's animal shelter operations.

Instead, he proposed that all city animal control officers simply deliver animals to the SPCA of Bradley County, a private organization that provides animal shelter services for the county.

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

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