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Lebanon budget passes second reading

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

Lebanon City Council approved on second reading an $18 million budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 and the city property tax rate for the new fiscal year of 37 cents at a special meeting Tuesday night.

No one spoke up at the public hearing on the budget prior to the meeting.

Commissioner of Finance Russell Lee said the carryover for the budget was $240,000. More than $205,000 of that money was used to help balance the budget.

The second reading did not pass without discussion, however, as several councilors brought up different points of concern with the document they have worked on for the past three months.

“I saw a lot of items in this budget that we didn’t talk about,” said Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler. “What is the procedure if we pass this budget and then find errors in it? I don’t want to be told two weeks from now that something is wrong, but it’s my fault because I voted on it and should have checked it.”

City Attorney Andy Wright said that the procedure in that case would be to just amend the budget and fix the error.

Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath had several questions pertaining to the new changes that had been made during the past week, especially regarding the positions that were either saved or abolished.

“I would like to see a list of all the positions on the RIF’d (reduction in force) list and what happened to each of them,” Warmath said. “It has gotten really confusing.”

Also troubling to her was the Utilities budget, mainly the size of it in comparison to the General Fund. She said that this Utilities budget was the highest she had seen since 2007.

“They should be helping the General Fund since we’re struggling so much with it,” Warmath said. “You have a line item for the Engineering department to get laptops and computer upgrades. This is not the best year to get tech savvy.”

One of the most controversial topics of the night was a line item in the Jimmy Floyd Fitness Center’s budget for $13,000 to pave and restripe the parking lot. The council had already decided that this money would not be used for that, but it remained in the budget.

“Don’t pave that parking lot and not pave (the streets in) my ward,” Warmath said.

Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer made a motion to amend that part of the budget and remove that line item, adding the $13,000 back into the General Fund where it would be surplus.

Mayor Philip Craighead said that it was understood that the parking lot would not be restriped, but that the money should stay in the JFFC’s budget for a cushion.

Farmer took back his motion and made another to take the $5,920 from the pay of the Human Resources director and put that money into the General Fund. Bill Durham, former HR director, retired at the end of June of this year. The amendment passed.

After more minor discussion, the budget passed its second reading 5-1 as Buhler opposed it due to his previously mentioned concerns.

Other ordinances that were passed included:

Approval of the annual contract with TDOT, Aeronautics Division, for Airport Improvements and Maintenance Projects;Approval of bids for the construction of roadway improvements to South Hartmann Drive at the intersection with West Main Street;Suspension of Step-Raises, Cost of Living Adjustments, and Christmas Bonuses for fiscal year 2009-2010;Establishing reasonable rental fees for pavilions at the Don W. Fox Community Park; andIncreasing charges to City Employees and Retirees for Health Coverage.

The council will hold the third and final reading of the budget and tax rate Wednesday, Aug. 12, at 5:30 p.m. The regular meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com.

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