Budget, Tax Rate Ordinance approved on final reading for 2014-15 fiscal year

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously passed a Budget and Tax Rate Ordinance on final reading this week for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Board members took the action Sunday afternoon during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Billy Ray Morris and seconded by Alderman Kelly Rector.
The ordinance presents a budget with $3,715,249 in projected revenue and $3,693,233 in anticipated expenditures for the fiscal year that began yesterday and ends on June 30, 2015.
The .2975-cent property tax rate for each $100 of assessed valuation is unchanged from the previous fiscal year.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Mayor Chris Goodman said the budget is based on the projected revenue for the coming year.
“There are such things as the traffic citations that go back 10 years that we’re in the process of collecting,” he noted. “And there are other revenue streams that we’re looking at.”
On a separate motion offered by Morris and seconded by Rector, the board voted unanimously to re-examine capital outlays and donations, employees’ salaries and benefits, including the Christmas bonus and their share of the health insurance cost, at its July 17 regular monthly meeting.
Calling the employees “the main focus” of the town, Morris said it is “very important” to take care of them first before the board does anything else.
On a motion offered by Rector and seconded by Alderman John Troncone, the board voted unanimously to give the employees the same $400 Christmas bonus they received last year by withdrawing $20,000 from the annual donations it makes to the Oakland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Fayette Cares.
Rector said that will show the employees that the board has done its “due diligence” to take care of them.
“A lot of them put their lives on the line,” he noted, “and a lot of them do a lot of hard work for the town. And I would like to show some appreciation.”
On a motion offered by Troncone and seconded by Morris, the board voted unanimously to re-examine the debt service for the police department’s older vehicles with high mileage at the July 17 meeting.
Goodman asked the board members to be mindful that, even with debt service, they are required to have the funds to pay that debt.
“At the end of the day,” he noted, “you want to ensure that we don’t overspend our income.”
Town Recorder Tammie Hightower asked the board to let her know where it would like to obtain the funds to pay that debt. If it wants to seek approval from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office to obtain a loan, she said, there is a process to do that.
“It does require a resolution of the board to secure debt,” she noted. “And it requires the state comptroller’s approval to acquire debt.”
Alderman Karl Chambless requested that the July 17 meeting agenda include consideration of implementing a “business permit” to help the town collect the sales taxes that it is losing. Hightower said a permit would help her by providing the local businesses’ state I.D. numbers for sales tax.
“Right now, it’s hard for me to ascertain who we’re missing,” she acknowledged, “because I don’t have their numbers.”
She said a system that requires the businesses to “register” with the town and provide their sales tax information could ensure that it receives all the money it is supposed to be getting.
Chambless said the board members should consider adopting a resolution at the July 17 meeting that will require them to begin the budget process for the next fiscal year no later than April 1, 2015.
He contended that the board should be having public “budget workshops” in April and May, so that it has a “firm budget” established by June. But Goodman noted that the Town Charter does not require public workshops.
“We will discuss if the right thing to do is to bring back the budget workshops,” the mayor said. “They did not work very well the last time we tried them, which is why I chose to follow the Charter and do it the way we did this year.”
But while citing Morris’ desire to re-examine parts of the budget later this month, Chambless said there are still “so many questions” and areas that need to be addressed. He contended that the board should be able to prepare a budget in a “public forum” before it is submitted for publication.
“It may not have worked before,” he told Goodman. “But no meeting can be any better than its leader. So, I’m hoping that you will be able to inspire us.”