Published 5:55 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

The draft budget for the City of Franklin currently under consideration is proving to be a tough pill to swallow. Quite frankly, the budget cuts and 6-cent tax increase proposed are the result of having kicked the can of financial responsibility down the road the last few years. Rather than gradually increase the real estate tax by a penny or two each year, the city decided to move money from the general fund, debt reserve fund and enterprise funds to balance the budget. Fund balances have dropped to a level that no longer allows those funds to be used. To balance the budget, a tax increase is required, and so too are the elimination of several personnel positions and funding of programs.

The most concerning of the personnel decisions that have been made to date are public safety positions. One position in the police department has been eliminated and three open positions have been frozen. The fire and emergency services department has had three open positions frozen, and two dispatcher positions are being held open as well. These are not the only positions in the city that have been eliminated or frozen; additional frozen positions include the athletic specialist position in Parks and Recreation and the city payroll clerk, and eliminated positions include an airport employee, garage employee and a custodian. Again, however, the positions in public safety are the most troubling.

Newly appointed City Manager Amanda Jarratt certainly has her hands full in crafting a budget that is both balanced and addresses city council’s priorities. The recommended cuts, while harsh, were necessary to provide full funding to the schools — a priority for most of city council — and to create a budget that allows the city to pay its bills. It’s an unenviable task, and one we’re certainly glad not to have to tackle.

There has been some uproar regarding a few of the cuts, most notably the elimination of fuel sales at our underutilized airport (which has since been put back in the budget) and cuts to funding for the Downtown Franklin Association. There have been suggestions made to city council on how to restore full funding to DFA, including re-allocating money from vacant positions the city funds. But little has been said about the fact that in order to balance the budget, vital public safety positions will go unfilled.

The reality is that the City of Franklin is facing a financial crisis. And although many of them are incredibly unpleasant, we agree with the majority of the decisions that have been made to restore financial order. That having been said, it is troubling that there has been little concern showed regarding cuts to public safety positions that can literally mean the difference between life and death for city residents. Long before full funding is restored to other city departments, the men and women who risk their lives daily to protect ours should receive the highest priority.