Proposed Bradley County, Tenn., budget includes raises

Proposed Bradley County, Tenn., budget includes raises

June 5th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Yarber.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The proposed 2013-14 budget for Bradley County includes a small salary increase for full-time employees and maintains current services without a property tax increase.

On Thursday, the Finance Committee will review the $125 million budget proposal recently presented to the Bradley County Commission by County Mayor D. Gary Davis.

"Although we are unable to expand services this year, this is a budget that will continue the same level of services that our constituents have come to expect, without a tax increase," Davis said.

Although Davis said that maintaining current service levels without raising taxes was a key objective, it was not the only one.

A request for a 1.5 percent salary increase for full-time county employees, effective April 1, also was included in the budget package.

The proposed budget calls for the general fund balance to increase from 10 percent to 13 percent of the county's debt. At the same time, the budget will decrease the county's debt by $4.2 million, Davis said.

"A lot of people say we aren't doing anything about our debt, but that's just not true," he said.

If the Bradley County Commission approves the debt reduction included in the budget proposal, the county will have reduced its debt by $14.2 million since 2010.

Davis said department requests stayed pretty close to last year's levels. Overall, expenditures increased by 1.83 percent, while revenues increased by 2 percent in the budget proposal. However, some compromise is needed, Davis said.

A Bradley County Sheriff's Office request for three school resource officers was limited to one officer, he said. It will be between the county school system and the sheriff's office to determine the placement of that officer. A resource officer was requested for the GOAL Academy and second officers for Bradley Central and Walker Valley high schools.

The proposed budget also made the assumption -- based on a previous recommendation by the Finance Committee -- that the county would opt for an animal control contact with Cleveland that amounts to an estimated $168,000 at the cost of eliminating animal pickup services outside city limits.

When animal control contact options came to a vote after the budget presentation, commissioners approved the reduced service package by 11-1. The opposing vote was cast by Commissioner Jeff Yarber, who recommended keeping animal pickup services.

Yarber's proposal was to base a new contract on audited animal shelter budget numbers and continue to use a formula that allocates the county's portion based on the percentage of animals received by pick up or drop off from the county. His recommendation would retain animal pickup service in the county at the cost of $298,000.

Commissioner Connie Wilson said she had struggled with the issue, but that opting for Yarber's recommendation would mean looking for more than another $100,000 in the budget.

The result of the vote, Yarber said, would be county animal problems resolved with bullets, and that in a few years the need for animal pickup service would come before the Bradley County Commission again.

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