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Co. Commission OKs $203M budget

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By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
LEBANON -- With many amendments being proposed Monday night, and only two accepted, Wilson County Commission passed a budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which gives bonuses to all county employees and sets the minimum pay for county employees at $9.50 an hour.

The proposed budget contained expenditures totaling $203,531,702 with revenues of only $195,547,624, a shortfall of $8 million, which District 8 Commissioner Frank Bush said was not a good way to operate.

District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines proposed setting a minimum pay of $9.50 for county employees, pointing out there were at least 14 people working for the county that made less than that amount.

Its going to have a minimal impact on your budget, minimal, Joines said.

Joines noted that Rutherford County has a minimum pay of $9.50 an hour for its county employees, as does Davidson County. He said the countys employees are its best asset, and they need to be paid adequately. The amendment to the budget was accepted by a narrow vote of 13 to 12.

Most of the dissenting comments were in reference to having the amendment go back through the committee process before being added to the budget.

The budget included $1.2 million to fund a 6 percent cost of living bonus for all county employees, and another $1.2 million for teacher salary increases. Bush proposed removing those two expenditures to lessen the deficit.

Bush said the county needed to have a balanced budget, saying Its something every family and every business has to deal with.

He admitted the current budget proposal could not be balanced, but said in the future, they needed to spend less. The $8 million difference is made up from money in the General Fund left over from the previous year. The overall fund balance, which includes the General Fund, was an estimated $36,765,585 as of July 1.

District 13 Commissioner Clint Thomas asked that the $2.4 million total that Bush asked be removed from the budget instead be given back to the taxpayers as a tax rebate.

This will be infused into our local economy and businesses, Thomas said.

Bush accepted Thomass alteration to his original amendment, which didnt require a vote by the full commission. District 23 Commissioner Bernie Ash asked how the pair planned to pay for removing the $2.4 million tax rebate, which would take away from the countys revenues.

If I give the $2.4 million back, I still have an $8 million shortfall, I havent gained anything, asked County Mayor Randall Hutto. Bush and Ash said that was correct.

Ash pointed out four or five years ago, the county had a General Fund balance of $90,000 and now it is at $2 million. We are moving in the right direction, Ash said.

The amendment proposed by Bush and further amended by Thomas failed in a full vote of the commission 5-19 with District 11 Commissioner Jim Bradshaw abstaining. Bush, Thomas and District 3 Commissioner Fred Weston, District 18 Commissioner Adam Bannach and District 10 Commissioner Nathan Clariday all voted in favor of the amendment.

District 22 Commissioner Wendell Marlowe proposed raising the property tax by 12 cents, which would give all county employees, including teachers, a 3 percent bonus and some added funds for the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency. The amendment died for the lack of a second to the motion.

The second amendment that was accepted was a change to the Road Commission budget, taking out $186,000 from that departments fund balance into a variable pay line item to cover its employees 6 percent bonus.

The measure had already been approved at the committee level and was accepted without a vote from the full commission. The amendment prevented the $186,000 from being drawn from the General Fund to pay for the bonuses to Road Commission employees.

When the budget finally came up for a vote, the commission approved it by a vote of 18 to 6 with Bradshaw abstaining. Weston, District 7 Commissioner Terry Scruggs, Bush, Clariday and District 16 Commissioner Jason Brockman all voted against the budget.

The commission also approved a new certified tax rate in a 21 to 4 vote, which came as a result of property reappraisal. The tax rate was set at $2.5004 per $100 of assessed value. Weston, Bush, Clariday and Thomas voted against the tax rate.

The squires tabled a resolution that created an interlocal agreement between Mt. Juliet and Wilson County that had the county providing an ambulance and two personnel per shift for the ambulance at a proposed Providence WEMA station.

The station is slated to be built by the City of Mt. Juliet from revenues raised by the city passing a 20 cent property tax. District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford proposed the resolution be tabled until the station is built.

All youve got to do is vote on this and put an ambulance there, said Bradshaw, who is also a Mt. Juliet city commissioner. If theres not an ambulance there, Mt. Juliet is not going to build it, Brockman said.

The vote was 18 to 7 in favor of tabling the resolution. Bradshaw, Brockman, Weston, Bush, Clariday, Thomas and Marlowe all voted against the motion. All seven of the commissioners who opposed represent districts that are fully within or contain areas in the Mt. Juliet city limits.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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