City Council Getting Closer to 2019 Fiscal Year Budget

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In their last meeting before the first reading and public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Murfreesboro City Council spent nearly Four (4) hours combing over numbers and proposed cuts to personnel and payroll in a Murfreesboro City Council budget hearing yesterday (06/13/18) in Council chamber.

The final department presentation came from Connie Rigsby, Director of the St. Clair Street Senior Center who recommended a potential membership fee of $10 per month and/or a per service charge for services and activities as meet the revenue needs of her department. When Ms. Rigsby suggested potentially doing away with Saturday service at the Senior Center, Councilmember Eddie Smotherman voiced his concern and suggested instead shifting some staffing from a traditional Monday - Friday schedule to a Tuesday - Saturday work schedule in order to preserve the day and keep the Center open. Ultimately Mayor McFarland suggested that because the annual amount to keep the center open on Saturday amounted to roughly $1000 per month that the Council make an effort to find the money and make a way for the Center to stay open on Saturday's.

There was also continued discussion on exactly how to move the Solid Waste Department into a more revenue neutral state. No small task when considering the current landfill will soon be full which means trash will need to be hauled to another destination which will present new fees and costs of transporting trash. While recycling is important, it has become and will continue to be an expensive avenue.

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One possible solution is to treat Trash pickup as a utility. While in his role as acting City Manager, Assistant City Manager Jim Crumley worked on a fee model that would charge each home a per can fee to fully fund solid waste collection.

While reviewing the previously proposed budget numbers and changes, much discussion was generated around the cities golf course, Old Fort Golf Club. Specifically, the debate was over proposed rate increases to green fees, cart fees and how they would impact senior golfers who currently make up an estimated 60% of weekday rounds of golf. Mayor McFarland noted that there has not been a green fee increase at Old Fort Golf Club over the past 6 years while the rate of inflation has impacted the services, wages, and goods used for and by Old Fort Golf Club.

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If there was any level of tension during these discussions it was when the Council circled back to review again its budget for Murfreesboro City Schools.

Murfreesboro City Schools will not receive over $200,000 in Federal dollars it had previously received. The Council had originally suggested replacing those dollars in their budget but when comparing it to other departments faced with similar Federal dollar losses the Council believes it would be inconsistent to make that commitment due to a minimum level investment it would obligate them to in the future. Councilmember Bill Shacklett spoke in favor of maintaining the originally proposed level of funding for Murfreesboro City Schools.

Further adding to the complexity of this conversation is that newly appointed City Manager noted that at 8 PM Tuesday night (06/12/18) he had learned that the School Board had independently hired a full-time staff attorney to act on the school boards behalf. When asked about this development Dr. Linda Gilbert, Director of Schools for the Murfreesboro City Schools said that it had long been discussed by the school board to do so and that also other school boards of a similar size commonly do so.

It seems that the challenge for this is in determining where the school boards attorney will fit into the landscape of the city structure. One concern voiced by Assistant City Manager, Jim Crumley, and Mayor McFarland was due to the cities charter and it being self-insured any one department having their own legal representative to speak on it sole behalf could put it at conflict with the city.

Dr. Gilbert and Mr. Tindall will discuss to help arrive at an acceptable compromise in the situation before tonight's first reading and public hearing.

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