Murfreesboro leaders ponder budget

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

MURFREESBORO – No fund balance should be used to balance the budget. That was the consensus of Murfreesboro Town Council members during a special meeting held here Monday when reviewing the tentative 2004-2005 Fiscal Year Budget.

With numbers reflecting the need for change, council members will be faced with the difficult decision of whether an increase in taxes/fees should be instituted to boost the town’s revenue.

A possible suggestion of raising ad valorem taxes by three cents, up to the previously decreased 71 cents per $100, and increasing garbage collection rates an additional 50 cents were some of the ideas thrown out in the meeting.

&uot;I wish we didn’t have to raise taxes,&uot; said council member Wayne Brown recalling his objection to the original decision to lower them.

&uot;When the suggestion to lower the taxes was first made, I begged council not to approve it. An decrease is great, but if we have to go back nine months later and take it back, what’s the point. It’s just not good.&uot;

In light of the rising cost of services, Town Administrator Molly Eubank pointed out that the town would have some tough decisions regarding raises for the public works, fire and police departments.

&uot;I have spoken with Police Chief Darrell Rowe and Public Works Director Gene Byrd and they are requesting a budget increase to provide raises for employees in their respective departments,&uot; said Eubank.

&uot;I have also spoken with Fire Chief Billy Deans and encouraged him to be more proactive in seeking out grant money to help support his budget,&uot; she commented, adding that the fire department had been cut back.

Despite the cutback, Eubank recommended that council treat each department equally.

Council member Bill Stephens beseeched the town to consider compiling information from other municipalities to compare the salaries of the various positions so the town would be better able to determine the direction it would need to go regarding pay scales. &uot;I think, for example, the police department should be paid a comparable salary to what other departments in the area are offering,&uot; said Stephens, adding that perhaps the town could gradually begin increasing their pay.

Murfreesboro Mayor Ben McLean agreed. &uot;If we’re out of line, we need to address it,&uot; he said. &uot;We have to pay the employees according to industry standard just to get them in the door.&uot;

Although Brown suggested that part of the problem lie with &uot;training individuals to leave&uot; for better paying jobs elsewhere, he disagreed with raises being the answer.

&uot;Most employers in the public sector aren’t offering nearly as much, nor do they offer benefits,&uot; he said noting an insurance increase of 60-65 percent, &uot;people can’t afford it.&uot;

McLean responded that though he wasn’t going to compare town salaries with those in the public sector, he thought the departments needed to be addressed and asked Eubank to research the starting salaries of the surrounding departments in addition to the rates for water, sewer and garbage.

&uot;We want to know this information before we make a decision one way or another,&uot; he said.

Other issues for consideration voiced in the meeting included keeping the library open on Saturdays, making provision for a recreation director, cleaning up the alley way behind the Planter’s Hardware building, finishing the project on Edgewood Drive and investigating the possibility of partnering with Best Western to construct a facility within the town’s limits allowing for an increase in its tax base.

Best Western, which has already committed to follow through on its $1 million dollar investment with the construction of a new facility in Scotland Neck, expressed an interest in building a similar facility in Murfreesboro. If the company were to construct a facility in the town, it would generate a sizable increase in revenue.

A follow up budget work session has not yet been scheduled.