Cannon Budget: Property Tax Hike May Be Needed

Two proposed Cannon County budgets for fiscal year 2012-2013, which begins July 1, were presented to the Budget Committee of the Cannon County Commission for consideration Thursday (May 24).

Either budget, if approved, would leave the county in red ink at the end of the year.

One, which does not include proposed salary increases for county employees, projects a negative General Fund balance of $54,119 as of June 30, 2013.

The second, which does include salary increases, would see the county end FY2012-2013 with a General Fund deficit of $194,680.

The proposed salary increases total $140,561. The majority of county employees have not had a pay increase in five years.

Both budgets would require an increase in the property tax to fund, as they would deplete every penny of the money the county has in reserve.

The proposed budget without raises for employees would require an additional three cents on the county's property tax. The one with raises would need a 10-cent property tax hike.

The county commission increased the property tax rate by 12 cents last year. Even with the additional revenue, however, the county is still projected to end the current fiscal year on June 30 having spent $283,350 more than it has raised.

Adding to the dual problems of decreased revenue and projected increased spending is that it is desirable to keep enough money in the county's bank account at all times to cover at least a month's worth of spending, which during the current fiscal year has averaged nearly $500,000.

• The Cannon County Budget Committee continued to work on trimming budget requests May 24. The Committee looked at budget requests from the County Trustee, Veterans Department, Library, Agricultural Extension Office, Veterans, the Commission Budget, the Circuit Court Office, County Mayor, and County Buildings.

The common theme of requests were raises for the county employees. It's been 5 years since county employees received a raise.

The Trustee's budget request was looked at first. County Trustee Wayne Prater reported that the actual revenue figure for 2010-2011 was $179,717.00. The budget for that year was $130,008.00, which meant that $49,709.00 was turned in to County General.

This year's projected revenue coming from the trustee's office is $185,000. A more accurate projection from the Trustee's office for May and June would bring that total to $189,145.70. The trustee's office is budgeted $143,049.00. The trustee's office is on target to turn in $46,096.70 to County General Fund.

The 2012-2013 budget request is $150,180.00, and $38,967.70 would be turned in to County General Fund if the revenues are based on what is projected to have collected during this fiscal year.

Doug Bodary from CTAS presented the Budget Committee some recommendations:

• To enhance accountability, place the REACH program in a separate special revenue fund. Utilize a grant anticipation loan from the debt service fund for cash flow purposes until grants are received. All revenues and expenditures related to the REACH program should be budgeted in this fund. This type of special revenue fund is the norm for other similar programs in other Tennessee counties, Bodary said.

• Budget the ambulance service operations in a special revenue fund. Budget all patient revenue into this fund and set a tax levy directly on the fund, for the amount needed to subsidized the operations. The use of a special revenue fund for accountability of an ambulance service is regarded as a budgeting "best practice" as it allows commissioners and management to benchmark operations and utilize performance based budgeting easier. 

• Continue with the RFP and competitive bidding of solid waste hauling and/or operations to reduce costs of the transfer station and comply with state purchasing laws.

• Competitively bid out employee health insurance. Currently the county government is paying for a minimum of five different employee health insurance plans. Recommended using the state health insurance plans as a template for bidding the insurance out.

• Get price quotes from the separate risk pools for liability and workers comp insurance. Request the pools give quotes with and without utilizing a local agent.

• Request county management to audit current revenue streams.

• Request county management to provide more accurate fund balance estimates/actual if closed numbers to assist the commission with making more informed budget decisions.

• Look the budget that you passed and compare it to the audited fund balances of July 1st.

The Libraries requested about a $17,000 increase in salary to hire more staff due to the increased volume of library patrons. 

The Agricultural Extension Office asked for a small increase in salary supplements. Most of the office staff's salary comes from theUniversity of Tennesseewith the State providing a three percent increase.

The Veteran's Department asked for a increase in salary and a decrease in travel expenses. The line item of office supplies request increased $135 to reflect the increase in price of ink cartridges.

The County Commission budget had to increase significantly for the next fiscal year due to the fact that the commissioners are now meeting monthly instead of quarterly. The commissioners when taking the action of doing so agreed not to get paid monthly but instead to stay on the same pay schedule of getting paid once every quarter. However, state law says that County Commissioners are required to be paid every time they meet.

So the line item of other per diem and fees were increased to $4000 to cover the required pay. In-Service Training which was budgeted at $200.00 this year was requested budgeted $800 so that the commissioners could attend training sessions from CTAS. Legal services line item jumped to $3000 requested from $847.00 budgeted. Legal notices also doubled from $2400 requested to $1200 budgeted simply because of the increase in meetings.

The Committee then took the scissors to the Circuit Court's wish list, keeping most of the line items the same as what was budgeted during the 2011-2012 fiscal year. 

County Mayor's Office and the County Building line items were pretty much the same as what was budgeted last fiscal year with the only increase requests coming in the form of raises for the employees.

The final action of the County Budget Committee was a unanimous vote to recommend to the Commissioners that they put the County Ambulance Department and the REACH program in their own separate budgets. The County will need to figure up operating expenses for the County Ambulance.

Department for four months and determine whether or not they can provide those expenses from general fund balance.

This Thursday the budget committee will tackle the budget requests from the County Fire Departments and the Sheriff's Department.