Budget reflects struggling economy

May. 22, 2014 @ 09:31 PM

The city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year represents making tough choices in an economy not yet recovered from the recession.

At Thursday’s work session, members of the Henderson City Council discussed revenue and spending within the $15.2 million general fund.

City Manager Ray Griffin said the budget reflects a desire to keep key functions of government afloat. As a result, some things had to be cut.

“Understanding what the nature of the revenue sources are and its dependence on what economic development the community does,” he said. “The healthier the local community, the more buildings go up, the more tax base come in, the more taxes we can collect, the more water revenues and trash fees we can collect and that sort of thing. When we’re in a stagnant situation, those are flat or even have some declines. We have seen all of that over these past six to eight years.”

The proposed budget protects core services, which Griffin defined as public safety, sanitation and streets. Public safety — composed of police, fire, E-911 and asset forfeiture — makes up nearly 47 percent of general fund spending. All core services comprise 61 percent of total fund spending.

Still, some things had to be cut. Griffin said he directed department heads to keep their budgets flat.

As a result, he recommended cutting one full-time and four part-time civilian jobs within the Henderson Police Department suggested by Chief Marcus Barrow as well as the Main Street Program, which will result in the loss of one full-time position and a savings of more than $50,000.

Other programs may also see fewer dollars, including Crime Stoppers, the Arts Council and the Roanoke River Basin Association.

Even so, councilman Jim Kearney said he wanted to find money to give to the Boys and Girls Club, which put in its request too late to be included in the manager’s proposal. The board directed Griffin to find $800 of the organization’s $1,000 request.

Departments will likely continue to operate lean. The planning department, for example, has been down three people for at least six years.

Griffin said there are several wild cards for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposed budget has no contingency monies for the general fund. There is also no money devoted to economic development initiatives that would bring businesses to Henderson and help broaden the tax base.

In addition, there is no funding in the budget for major capital expenditures, including sidewalk and street resurfacing and maintenance and repair budgets for vehicles and public buildings.

Council members said they were pleased with the manager’s proposed budget and the work they’d done so far — especially in keeping water and sewer rate increases to a minimum — and decided not to hold any more work sessions until the public hearing June 9.

“The budget shows that there is no ad valorem tax increase,” councilman Mike Inscoe said. “We are not increasing the sanitation fee this year for our citizens. We are not taking any money out of our fund balance. We reduced our regional water to 4 percent. We kept our sewer at 3 percent. We reduced our water from 5 to 3.5 percent. At this point, I’m willing to send the budget to the public and get the public comment on where we are now.”

Griffin said the board can’t adopt the budget before then but could do so as soon as the same meeting. But they could also choose to hold additional work sessions to discuss public comments.

 

Contact the writer at vshortley@hendersondispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @herding_stets.