At the Dec. 2 Smyrna Town Council meeting, council members tasked the town's Finance Committee with finding a way to cut $500,000 from the 2014 budget and balance the spending plan without using reserves. The Finance Committee voted Wednesday night to send a budget back to council that not only made the necessary cuts but includes a $42,000 surplus.
The committee met Tuesday and Wednesday night to work on the budget. The end result was a cut of $542,000 from the budget.
Even though the committee was able to cut the deficit, the budget proposal still includes a five-cent property tax increase and rate increases for trash, water and sewer, and electric rates.
Since there was a $42,000 surplus, some members discussed possibly adding items back to the budget.
Other council members were more comfortable having a budget with a surplus.
"I really suggest the $42,000 should be set aside and we see how things go," said committee member Larry Graf. "We hope we hit it [revenues] but there could be a $50,000 shortfall so my suggestion is we see what happens."
A $135,000 water truck, $35,000 pickup truck and more were also cut from the budget. Grants to the Boys & Girls Club and Smyrna/Clayton July 4th Association were cut. Originally grants to the Citizens' Hose Company and American Legion Ambulance 64 were cut in half, but the committee voted to give the two organizations the original amounts.
Police Chief Wil Bordley originally cut the money set aside for lifeguards at Lake Como, but the committee voted to put the $27,000 back in the budget as lifeguards are a priority for council members.
The town had planned on converting a part-time library employee to a full-time employee, but that was cut from the budget as well until the committee voted the position back into the budget; otherwise the town would've been faced with cutting back hours at the Smyrna Public Library.
At the meeting on Tuesday, the committee discussed putting a hold on contracts and bids for new projects; the suggestion was met with unfavorable feedback from Bordley and Town Manager Dave Hugg.
Bordley said the town would stand to lose money by putting the bids for the police station project on hold. For Hugg, money wasn't an issue with all of the projects. He said several projects are ready to go and putting them on hold a few months could result in putting them on hold for a year. Putting the Commerce Street water and sewer project on hold could mean losing a loan that has a 1.5 percent interest rate and 87 percent loan forgiveness.
While several line items were cut in the budget, Hugg said on Tuesday night that the town can't keep cutting and putting off needed items for the town such as equipment. The town recently had two leaf trucks go down and had to order parts to fix them.
"We can't keep pushing this stuff forward. It's not good to keep pushing the equipment off and off and off," Hugg said. "I said this last year and I'll say it again the suggested cuts that we're making, it's going to bite us one day and it's going to bite us hard."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.