Members of the Rutherford County Commission agreed Friday to use some reserve funds to balance the $442.5 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year in order to avoid increasing property taxes.
Commissioner Robert Stevens (Dist. 12) was the only member to vote against the budget, which was balanced using $17.9 million in rainy day funds.
“I just do not see where we have the justification to spend the money when it is unnecessary,” Stevens said, during the County Commission meeting held at the Rutherford County Courthouse.
“That money could be diverted to other underfunded areas,” he said. “We have to get a grasp on our benefits, pensions and operating costs – we have to get a hold of our liabilities.”
As part of his argument to reduce operating costs, Stevens proposed combining the Public Works and Planning Committee with the Property Management Committee – a suggestion that several commissioners strongly opposed.
“When the economy turns around, we will need that committee to be separate,” said Commissioner Matthew Young (Dist. 16), who sits on the Public Works Committee. “We only meet when it is necessary, at most only once a month.”
Several commissioners also rebutted the proposal during the debate, pointing out that Stevens did not raise objections to the budget prior to the final vote.
“When you vote for everything up until today, then you cannot sit here and criticize the budget,” Commissioner Steve Sandlin (Dist. 9) said, adding the reserve funds were set aside from general monies so the County Commission would be able to balance the budget during downturns in the economy.
Commissioner Robert Peay Jr. (Dist. 4) agreed, saying, “The reason that reserve fund is there is because we knew funds would be tight with the economy.”
If the economy continues to remain stagnant, however, Sandlin acknowledged future budgets would probably need to include cuts or tax increases of some kind.
“Every budget is tough,” Sandlin said. “We may have to raise taxes next year.”