East Ridge's budget proposal shows decrease

East Ridge's budget proposal shows decrease

May 3rd, 2014 by Alex Harris in Local Regional News

With no city employee raises and no property tax increase, East Ridge's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 reflects a decrease from the 2014 budget.

That decrease is largely the result of moving some funds out of the general fund into more specific funds, and trying to do away with the various departments' miscellaneous funds to provide better accountability of the city's finances, said City Treasurer Thad Jablonski.

For example, the sanitation assessment fee, which on average brought the city $1.5 million annually, has been removed as a revenue source from the general fund and included in the solid waste management fund. Similarly, several grants are not included in the general fund but instead are listed in a separate grant fund.

The budget, a proposed $10,883,613, was presented to the City Council at a special meeting Thursday night, and the property tax rate remains at $1.42 per $100 of assessed value.

This means a homeowner in East Ridge with a house valued at $100,000 will pay an annual property tax of $355.57 to the city.

The city will be adding a part-time leisure services coordinator in the department of Parks and Recreation, as well as two part-time police officers. Also, two city positions that were vacated earlier this year as a result of the City Council's proposed and scrapped health insurance incentive for retirees will not be replaced.

East Ridge City Manager Andrew Hyatt said in early March that the deletion of those two positions -- city services director and office manager -- saves the city more than $104,000 in salaries alone, in addition to savings on payroll taxes, workers' comp and unemployment insurance.

Other factors taken into consideration in crafting the budget are that the residential sanitation fee won't see an increase, revenues from property taxes are expected to decrease by 1 percent, revenue from the Hall income tax by 8.2 percent and that local and state sales tax revenues are expected to rise by 2.5 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Additionally, the 2015 budget won't use any of the city's $4.5 million unreserved general fund, the capital improvement program fund will see $1 million in additional funds and the city's insurance broker estimates a 10 percent increase for health and dental insurances.

Hyatt explained that the increase in insurance costs is an estimate and he expects to have the actual percentage increase from the broker soon. Hyatt added that the increase wasn't because of any specifics, but reflected an annual change in rates and other factors that affect insurance costs.

The proposed budget also includes funds to upgrade the HVAC system at City Hall as well as for a replacement roof at the City Services Traffic Control Building. City departments also prepared a three-year equipment replacement schedule that would require an additional $201,400 to the annual budget. This additional funding would allow the departments to begin an equipment replacement program, excluding the new fire apparatus, which is projected to cost $600,000.

A public hearing and first reading of the budget ordinance are tentatively scheduled for May 22, and the second and final reading of the budget for June 12. The approved budget will go into effect July 1.

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.