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M’boro Council to consider budget

MURFREESBORO – The 2009-2010 general fund budget Town Administrator Cathy Davison will present Friday to the Murfreesboro Town Council calls for $1,818,512 in revenue and $1,813,012 in expenditures.

The town’s 2008-2009 general fund budget totaled $1,994,290.75, some $175,779 more than the draft to be presented Friday. The new general fund budget, as initially presented, will be 8.8 percent less than the budget adopted by the council last year.

The town council will meet at 1 p.m. Friday and again at 1 p.m. May 13 in budget workshops. The regular council meeting May 26 will include a public budget hearing and formal adoption of the budget is slated for June 9.

Davison said she expects to give water and sewer fund and e911 fund proposals to the council Friday as well, for consideration at the governing body’s second budget workshop.

In a memo to the council in advance of the first workshop, Davison said she anticipates Powell Bill allocations to the city (allocations of motor fuel tax money to municipalities for street maintenance and construction) will be down 14 percent from the previous year.

She also predicts a 7-10 percent decrease in local option sales tax collections and recommends that the council build 9 percent into its budget.

Cable franchise revenue also continues to be low, she said, but in July the town will be able to file for receipt of funds related to PEG (Public, Educational, Governmental) programming on the local cable provider.

Insurance coverage for city employees, Davison said in her message to council members, increased 28 percent or $120 per employee per month in the past year. The city pays 100 percent of its employees’ insurance premiums. She said increasing the deductible from $500 to $1,000 would limit the increase in the cost of coverage to 11.8 percent.

The town administrator recommends a 2 percent cost of living allowance (COLA) increase for the town’s employees. She said that increase will be possible because the police department is operating “short two patrol officers.” She said the department will be able to hire one officer in January and will be able to pay auxiliary officers $13 instead of the $10 they have been paid for the past five years.

The proposed budget incorporates an $8,000 increase in workmen’s compensation expense because a former employee had an open claim at the time of the city’s most recent workmen’s comp audit and that will cause an increase in the town’s premiums.

Davison recommends a $6,697 increase in Albemarle Library funding “as the staff is serving more residents, as well as offering more services and programming.” But she said half of that amount can be paid through a recreation/nutrition grant because the library will be hosting the nutrition program beginning in July.

A 28 percent increase in utilities expense over that approved by the council in the current year’s budget is called for in the initial 2009-2010 budget proposal.

The amount budgeted in the current fiscal year for utilities for the town’s six facilities totaled $27,300. The amount proposed in the budget to be presented Friday will be $38,400.

The message to the council members notes that Murfreesboro’s volunteer firemen are the highest paid in the area, receiving $13 per call. It says that, though the department has requested that that be increased to $15, that would be difficult under the current economic conditions.

The message also notes that Murfreesboro pays 100 percent of firefighters’ retirement. “Many communities,” it says, “are going from paying per call to just paying 100 percent of the retirement. The Town pays both.”

The draft budget shows decreased amounts for equipment and personnel expenses for the fire department, elaborating, “As the town continues to 100 percent support the fire department, it is recommended that the department begin to pay for a portion of their personnel equipment (turn out gear) as well as any of their personnel expenses. It is not uncommon for volunteer fire departments to hold numerous fundraising events throughout the year to pay for the equipment…”