Council passes budget featuring 99-cent real estate rate

Published 10:05 am Friday, June 12, 2015

To little fanfare from the crowd gathered for a different agenda item, the Franklin City Council approved the budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The main event of the night dealt with the vote for the at-large seat on the Franklin City Public Schools Board, though the budget also impacted the division. During a work session on May 26 and announced on June 1 at the public hearing, members of council found a way to lower the suggested real estate tax increase by 6 cents. Amongst other cuts, the city reduced the proposed raise in base rate for the school budget by $50,000.

Superintendent Willie J. Bell said, “We definitely want to reward our faculty and staff for all their hard work as we continue our quest for excellence.”

But to do that, they’ll have to be creative in their use of other funds.

“With the decrease, we will have to strategize of manipulating other funds for ongoing implementation of having our students and teachers become future ready learners,” Bell said. “The outcome of receiving $50,000 less would result in loss of services we currently provide to our students and, worst-case scenario, the loss of a teaching position where we may have been able to incur a position.”

Other reductions to achieve a 99-cent real estate tax rate include cutting the general fund transfer to the economic development fund by $21,345. The contingency fund, which is used for emergencies, will lose $49,301 during the year.

Cuts that were also in City Manager Randy Martin’s original 9-cent proposed budget included: level funding for most agencies; delaying building repairs; level funding the Downtown Franklin appropriation; reducing the Incubator transfer from the general fund; delaying equipment and vehicle purchases; and eliminating the contribution to the Isle of Wight Skating Rink.

The budget does have some good features, though, as customers will save a projected $20.88 this year in garbage collection. Franklin Power and Light users will see an average decrease of $3.78 per 1,300 kilowatt hours.

Combining that with the increase in tax rate, Martin said residents would pay the city less this year. The average Franklin resident who owns a $153,000 home paid $1,468.80 in 2015. At the 99-cent rate, that same homeowner will pay $1,514.70, an addition of $45.90.

Subtracting that from the utility savings, the average Franklin resident will save $20.34 in 2015-16.

Council also elected to delay a 10 percent increase to the water and sewer rates, which would have been used to help pay for improvements to the aging and deficient infrastructure.

The vote carried 6-1, with Ward 3’s Greg McLemore voting nay. After unsuccessfully appealing to Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn to pull certain increases out of the budget for a separate vote, he had a statement for his action.

“I support lowering the trash rate,” he said. “It is far overdue and the citizens of Franklin deserve that. My vote not to increase anything is not a reflection on my satisfaction for reducing the trash rate.”