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Mon, Dec 22, 2014

Rainy day fund dry, RuCo needs more in taxes

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Rutherford County is facing another tax increase this year as revenues have waned during the current economy crisis, Finance Director Lisa Nolen told the Budget and Finance Committee Thursday night when they presented the county’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2009-2010.

County Mayor Ernest Burgess recommended as much as 20.5 cents on the property tax rate to balance to plug a more than $10.8 million gap in next year’s budget.

The proposed increase means another $76.88 per year for a home valued at $150,000.

“This is not surprising,” Commissioner Robert Peay said. “The Budget Committee has recommended higher increases for the past three years.”

But those increases have either been voted down or, as in the case of last year, the recommendation was reduced from 27 cents to 17 cents.

“The 17 cents we didn’t raise it last year is what we’re asking for this year,” Commissioner Will Jordan said.

Last year the county faced an $18 million shortfall and balanced the budget with a smaller tax hike and money from the rainy day fund, but this year the rainy day fund has run dry.

Also in previous years the county as had money left over at the end of the year, but not so this year with the recession.

“We are not finding the savings in this budget like we have in previous years,” Burgess said.

The proposed budget remains flat over last year with little increases, like county policy-mandated raises for most employees except teachers.

“There’s no furniture, fixtures, equipment. No ambulances. There are only a few cars for the sheriff’s department,” Burgess said, adding the county isn’t even planning on building much next year, excluding two new middle schools.

“There are very, very limited capital expenditures in this budget,” he said.

The county has few options to balance the budget, outside of a property tax increase tax increase.

Nolen said in the preliminary budget 15 jobs have been eliminated.

“We’re not talking about empty positions staying empty,” Peay said. “We’re talking about sending someone home.”

The jobs are mostly unfilled and five supervisor spots in the Ambulance Service will be reduced by attrition. But one job in the planning department will be cut.

The county can also furlough employees paid through the General Fund (excluding teachers).

If all general fund employees were furloughed for 10 days, the county would save more than $1.4 million in salaries and wages. The savings would reduce the needed tax increase by 2.8 cents to 17.6 cents.

The county could also close one ambulance station, which results in six fired employees and $308,010 in savings.

As a last-ditch option, the county could reduce wages for general fund employees by 5 percent, which would save more than $1.8 million or 3.65 cents on the proposed tax rate.

“I won’t consider that unless we talk about teacher pay,” Jordan said.

Burgess said they tried to come up with a buy-out plan, but it wasn’t feasible and wouldn’t save the county money in the short term.

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or mwillard@murfreesboropost.com.
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Members Opinions:
May 01, 2009 at 2:44pm
I wish it was that easy for the rest of us... "Hey Boss, I seem to be spending more money than you're paying me. Give me a raise."

May 01, 2009 at 4:25pm
Hire more tax collectors (Cops) and write more tickets, wait... let's install more cameras under the false pretense of safety! Why should you spend less? Am I the only one who has noticed how our budgets shrink while the damn governments continues to inflate!
May 01, 2009 at 4:31pm
"...facing another tax increase this year as revenues have waned during the current economy crisis..."

What do you think has happened with everyone else's revenues? Another tax increase... Great idea! That will make everything OK.
May 01, 2009 at 4:46pm
How about leaving our pockets alone and ya'll (government) spending less. We all know you waste a TON of money every day.
May 01, 2009 at 5:04pm
We’re not talking about empty positions staying empty,” Peay said. “We’re talking about sending someone home.”

The jobs are mostly unfilled and five supervisor spots in the Ambulance Service will be reduced by attrition. But one job in the planning department will be cut.

Okay, which is it? Are we "sending people home" or eliminating unfilled positions?
Sounds like someone doen't know what they're doing.
Didn't our County Mayor campaign on "running the county like a business"? Then where is this business approach? I believe a business in this position would start cutting expenses and workers. And notice we're only talking about the "general fund". What about the other fee offices like the Property Assessor, County Clerk, and Circuit Clerk. Are they cutting back?
Let's look at the whole budget and see what can be reduced before we start talking about raising taxes. Maybe it's time to start looking at a tiered property tax system where those in the general services area pay one rate and those in a city services are pay another. I'm tired of paying for city garbage, police, and fire and also paying for county garbage, police, and fire. If you don't want to live "in the city" and pay city taxes then fine, pay your share of county services.
May 01, 2009 at 5:07pm
It's a shame that we have to tighten our belts even tighter because the county wants more. How about the county doing a little belt tightening? How about an across the board 10% reduction? Sadly, most of us can't simply tell our employers or customers, "sorry slick, you have to eat a raise or a price increase so we can pay more to the county government." We have to do without so government can spend. Sure as hell can't have them making sacrifices or cutting back. While I can't speak for anyone else, I'm personally getting to the end of my rope with tax increases so government can continue consuming at it's current level.
May 01, 2009 at 6:05pm
Rain Day Fund dry? The Rutherford County Government needs to be held accountable in showing the taxpayer when the fund went dry and where every cent was spent. I'm sure they will not want us to know. What in the heck is going on. Property tax increase this budget year,next budget year and even the next budget year is being already being predicted. When will this stop. Guess it will stop when the taxpayer has no more money for Rutherford County to squeeze out of us.
May 04, 2009 at 9:26am
I have owned a house here for 11 years, my property taxes have gone up 9 times. The county ought to rolling in the money with property values increasing every year until now.
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