Alderman Billy Wood has presented the McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen with a list of recommended changes to the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-14. The changes include lowering the property tax rate and increasing nonprofit donations.
Wood wants a 5-cent property tax decrease, which would bring the city’s tax rate down to $2.04.
“I wanted to make it a 10-cent decrease to make the city’s rate comparable to the county’s rate, but I didn’t think these guys would agree to it,” said Wood. “I was hedging my options trying to get something passed.”
The city’s property tax rate is $2.09, while the county’s is $1.99. A 5-cent reduction in the property tax rate for city residents amounts to a combined $100,000 loss in revenue for the city.
Wood says the prior board, of which he, Mayor Jimmy Haley and Aldermen Rick Barnes were members, promised to lower the property tax rate if the city won its lawsuit with the county over sales tax.
A sales tax recovery settlement was reached that returns 4 percent, compounded annually, over the next 25 years. At the end of the agreement, the city will retain 100 percent of the local option sales tax formerly earmarked for schools. It is estimated the agreement will generate $26 million in revenue for the city during the 25-year period.
With the win and a change in board members, the promise has fallen by the wayside, says Wood.
“I don’t understand why this board refuses to honor that promise,” he said. “Is a board’s promise worthless with each election? Why they are not willing to honor that promise is unfathomable.”
Wood is also upset about the reduction in nonprofit donations – especially since the city’s current proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-14 has a $4 million ending fund balance for June 2014. That’s an excess of $2 million above what is needed to pay expenses at the beginning of fiscal year 2014-15.
“We have all this money and we don’t want to take care of the programs that take care of our citizens. I just don’t understand that,” said Wood.
In a prior meeting to review the budget, Alderman Ken Smith said the extra $2 million in the budget would be for a “rainy day fund” proposed by Wood.
Wood suggested the following changes:
• Place $250,000 in the city’s first rainy day fund. “What they want to do is several times what we should do,” said Wood. “You build a rain day fund slowly.”
• Contribute $100,000 to Magness Library, up from $48,000 in maintenance of effort. “The county gives $116,000. “We said if we got the sales tax recovery money that we needed to work with the county on items that benefit the entire county,” said Wood. “The library does that.”
• Contribute $55,000 to the Chamber of Commerce, up from $15,000. “Giving only $15,000 will, in essence, shut the Chamber down,” said Wood. “When the economy is weakened, it’s not a smart time to attack the Chamber.”
• Contribute $75,000 to the Industrial Development Board, up from $20,000. “The same reason I want to give the Chamber $55,000, is the same reason I want to given IDB $75,000,” said Wood. “During a weakened economy, you don’t cut funding to programs that work to generate economic and industrial development.”
• Contribute $20,000 to the Warren County Senior Citizens Center, up from $8,800. “I would hate to think I had to tackle the enormous job Cheryl Mingle and her staff have to undertake without assistance from the city,” said Wood. “Giving $8,800 out of a $15 million budget is chump change.”
• Restore $200,000 to the Parks and Recreation budget to begin badly needed upgrades on Pistol Park.
According to Wood, with his changes the $4 million ending balance in June 2014 will be reduced to $2,575,333. With the rainy day fund, which will remain in the general fund, it will increase the balance to $2,825,333.
“Also, my numbers do not include the $140,000 in sales tax recovery money to fund capital improvement projects,” said Wood. “If you include that, the bottom line is almost $3 million.”
Wood’s suggested changes to the budget will be considered by the full board on June 25.