CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Joe Pitts will ask the City Council to consider a new proposed 2022 City Budget during special called meetings on Monday and Wednesday.
The Council approved the Mayor’s original proposed budget -- which called for a 20-cent tax increase to fund a comprehensive Transportation 2020+ Strategy -- on an 8-2 vote on first reading June 17, but then rejected it 6-7 on a second and final vote June 22.
The new proposal will call for the property tax rate to remain at the current rate of $1.0296 per $100 of assessed value, fully eliminate the Tier 1 capital project funding envisioned in Transportation 2020+, and cut the planned additional Street Department maintenance crew and equipment.
“Transportation 2020+ was designed to tackle our critical transportation infrastructure needs across the entire City. We put special emphasis on making it fair, equitable and balanced, with projects that would improve transportation in all Wards,” Mayor Pitts said. “Now, with the City Council unwilling to support the full 20-cent tax increase to pay for it, it would be unwise to pick and choose which parts of town get projects and which ones don’t. We designed Transportation 2020+ as a ‘One City’ plan, with each property owner helping to pay for it and every part of town sharing in the benefits.”
Mayor Pitts said it also would be unwise to embark on expensive design and engineering of a limited number of projects in Tier 1 without strong funding support for the complete Transportation 2020+ Strategy by the City Council.
“We’ve been down that road before,” Mayor Pitts said. “In the past, the City would get projects started, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on design and engineering, and then the Council would change its mind and not provide the necessary funding for construction. Tackling our critical transportation needs has to be a comprehensive program, approved up front, or else we risk throwing good money after bad.”
Mayor Pitts said he was disappointed that the City Council chose not to fund Transportation 2020+.
“Failure to approve and implement the comprehensive transportation plan will compound traffic congestion as the city and area population continues to grow,” Mayor Pitts said. “Traffic congestion will continue to be a threat to our economic development and prosperity.”
Mayor Pitts said his revised proposed budget would include a $35,000 increase to a total of $49,000 for the Human Relations Commission, which was the amended amount approved by the Council during deliberation of his original proposal. Similarly, the new budget will include $20,000 for a new sign and decor improvements at the Ajax Turner Senior Center, which also was added earlier by amendment during debate by the Council. The budget also will include the other non-controversial elements of the Mayor’s original budget that can be sustained with the revenues generated by the $1.0296 tax rate.
A new budget ordinance must be approved on first and second reading at two separate meetings. The special meetings will be at 4:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday in the Council Chambers.
Mayor Pitts said the City Council must act quickly and approve a new budget before July 1 or risk saddling the City with an inadequate “continuing budget” based on the 2021 spending plan. A continuing budget is prescribed in the City Charter and takes effect when the municipal government fails to approve a budget by the start of its fiscal year.
A continuing budget cannot include any capital spending, which means that ongoing capital projects, such as Rossview Road widening, would be shut down. It also prohibits single expenditures over $5,000 and prohibits a general wage increase for employees.
Failing to approve a new annual financial plan for the city and falling into a mandated continuing budget could have long-term negative impacts on the City, Mayor Pitts warned. It could jeopardize the City's excellent bond rating and increase future borrowing costs, risk lawsuits from contractors involved in capital projects that would be halted, and risk increased costs to get contractors back on site once a budget is approved.
“We can’t risk not approving a 2022 budget and being forced into a continuing budget situation,” Mayor Pitts said. “That kind of chaos would be an unacceptable outcome for a dynamic, growing City like Clarksville.”