Budget review gets help

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 9, 2008

FRANKLIN—Franklin City Council will consider adopting the budget during its meeting on Monday after a work session, which will include the input of councilmen-elect Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess.

Earlier this week, the two men hadn’t heard from Mayor Jim Councill about whether they would have the opportunity to participate, although both had planned to attend anyway. In the case of the council, it is the mayor’s prerogative whether or not to ask them for their input.

“It was never a question of whether or not we wanted them there,” said Councill. “We were trying to make sure that legally, we could do it.

“They have been invited. They are eager to come, and we are excited to have them.”

Councill said that the school board has been invited as well to bring city council “up to date” on the “hard work” they have put in on “stretching their own budget.”

The 5:30 p.m. work session will highlight information relating to the budget, such as savings for the city by moving elections from May to November, overtime at the animal shelter, salary increases, and tax relief for the elderly. Additional information was requested by Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson after citizens raised concerns during a public hearing on the budget held during the May 12 council meeting.

As required by state law, a budget must be adopted before July 1.

Also on the agenda will be a presentation by Steve Wampler of Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group, who handled reassessments for the city this year. The city conducts reassessments every two years.

The group’s findings were that city property owners will see an overall average increase in taxable property at 18 percent, while commercial has been reassessed at a 23 percent increase, according to Wampler.

He had said that the increase was only an overall average, and that some property could fall below or above the average.

Wednesday was the last day citizens could meet with the assessor to go over any discrepancies they had with the figures.

“I’m going to give (council) a brief review, let them know the number of people I saw and answer any questions,” said Wampler on Friday.

“We had 129 appointments, but some of those owners had multiple parcels.”

The reassessment figures will affect the city’s budget— proposed at $52.4 million for fiscal 2009—about 4.8 percent more than this year’s budget.

The real estate tax rate would drop from 90 to 85 cents under the proposed budget, while some property owners’ tax bills would still rise due to the increase in property assessments. At the proposed 85 cents, on property valued at $100,000 but reassessed at $110,000, the owner would pay $935 in taxes, up from $900.

The initial hearing on May 12 was based on a 10 percent increase projected by the city prior to the completion of the reassessments.

“We do need to establish a tax rate,” said Councill on Friday, “even though we know good and well it will not be the final rate. It will probably be much less.”

Another public hearing would be held at a later date in regard to establishing a tax rate that better reflects the reassessment figures.

In other matters, a brief presentation by the Franklin Community Development Department will be made to council regarding the downtown Farmer’s Market to get feedback on how council wants to proceed with bids for the structure.

Staff will recommend sticking to the original site plan for the project, which will cost the city no additional money. The Camp Foundations have provided $75,000 to building the market, and the city will perform in-kind work for things like site work and landscaping.

In addition, council members will consider the adoption of an anti-idling policy in conjunction with its participation in the Green Government Challenge.

The purpose of the policy, which provides guidelines for the start up and operation of city vehicles and buses, is to reduce fuel consumption and engine wear, protect citizens’ health by reducing harmful vehicle emissions and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are attributed to vehicle emissions.

Following Monday’s work session, the regular portion of the council meeting will get under way at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall.