Jasper, Tennessee, board narrowly approves first reading of new budget

Jasper, Tennessee, board narrowly approves first reading of new budget

August 16th, 2019 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Alderman Paul West, left, and Mayor Paul Evans, right, are shown in this file photo.

Photo by Ryan Lewis /Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen is still trying to approve a budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which began July 1.

Since then, the town has been operating on a continuing budget ordinance.

At the board's August meeting, the fracture among its members was on full display as two different budgets were presented for consideration — one created by Mayor Paul Evans and one written by Alderman Jason Turner.

"As mayor, it's my duty to present a balanced budget to the board, and if the board votes it down, then you know I've done my job," Evans said.

He said his budget would not require a property tax increase and would provide a 3% pay increase to city employees.

The board voted 3-2 against Evans's budget with Turner, Alderman Josh Jennings, and Vice Mayor Paul West casting the dissenting votes.

The board then considered Turner's budget, which Evans said he received only two days before the meeting.

"This budget here [Turner's], I don't think it's a good budget," he said. "I think it should require a property tax increase."

Evans said one item in that budget, designating and paying the Marion Animal Resource Connection to handle animal control in Jasper, was not even "permissible."

"If the board is going to outsource those services to a private entity, it does have to be bid if it's over $5,000," City Attorney Mark Raines said. "As far as putting that money in the budget, I think the board has the ability to do that, you just can't designate it to MARC at this point without doing a request for proposals."

Evans said MARC requested a three-year guarantee on the deal, and that making the move would require lowering Park Director Justin Baker's salary by $15,000 since that is his compensation for handling the town's animal control issues.

He said Jasper needs to purchase some high-ticket items including a backhoe, two tractors and a "brush" truck rather than using that money elsewhere.

According to Turner's budget, the Jasper fire department would be allocated $201,000, which is an increase of more than $150,000 from the previous year.

"I don't think that this town can afford to spend that kind of money," Evans said.

He accused Turner, Jennings and West of having a conflict of interest because they are all volunteers at the fire department.

"I think your egos are bigger than our bank account," Evans told them.

Proponents of Turner's budget didn't speak to any of its details.

Instead, Jennings made a motion to approve Turner's budget "as written" with the exception of designating MARC as a specific animal control provider.

The money for that job would be budgeted, but the board would have to put out requests for proposals to get bids on the job.

The board voted 3-2 to approve Turner's version on first reading.

Evans and Alderman Paul "Mac" Bumpus cast the dissenting votes.

"I do feel like that you all don't have the town's best interests at heart," Evans told the other three board members.

The board will consider the budget proposal on second and final reading at its next regular meeting on Sept. 9.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.


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