Today is Sunday, July 23, 2017

Council: More info needed on proposed sales tax revenue

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Craighead noted the money can be used to address any needs the city has and said if it passes the council should determine where the need is greatest. He said the top priority is balancing the citys budget.


In the 2012-2013 budget approved Tuesday night, Craighead indicated the city would budget about $2.75 million from the Rainy Day Fund to cover the deficit. Although, he also said in the 2011-2012 budget they expect to close the year only spending about $500,000 of the $2.2 million allocated.


The main thing is balancing the budget, Craighead said of where the sales tax increase would be spent. After that it is fixing the roads.


Council agreed that roads and drainage issues were a major need throughout the city and said more should be done to combat those problems. Buhler said his top priorities for the sales tax increase would be balancing the budget, paving roads and fixing drainage issues.


However, several councilors admitted when citizens have asked where the proposed 0.5 percent increase would be spent each year, they havent had many definite answers.


I cant answer the question for them when they ask where the money is going because I dont know, Huddleston said.


Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino said he thinks the council should hold a public forum to give them a chance to discuss the possibilities with citizens and get more feedback to see where citizens would like the money to be spent.


He said it was important to have citizen input and noted he and the rest of the council have received many phone calls about the sales tax increase. Cesternino said the city could do more to educate the people on the issue and said holding a public forum would achieve that goal.


Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry added that citizens have to be confident in how the city is using their taxes to provide services and resolve issues such as poorly paved streets and drainage problems.


It doesnt have a chance in Hades to pass if the people dont think were being good stewards of their money, Barry said.


Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said people feel disenfranchised and that the city must consider how to cover its deficit if the sales tax increase does not pass. She said the council cant count on the increase to balance its budget and should cut back instead.


To do anything to grow the budget right now is irresponsible and out of touch, she said. How are we going to make ends meet if this doesnt pass?


The 2012-2013 budget includes $20,764,455 in General Fund expenditures and $59,176,169 from all funds, according to Commissioner of Finance and Revenue Russell Lee.


Council was tied on the third and final vote to approve the budget with Buhler and Warmath voting no initially. Barry passed but later changed his vote to no to create a tie among the six council members. Huddleston, Cesternino and Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes voted in favor of approving the budget. Craighead broke the tie by voting to approve the budget.


Also during the meeting, council unanimously approved a request for a referendum to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot, asking citizens if city elected officials should have a term limit. The proposal was brought up by Barry, who in 2010 sent a private act to the Tennessee General Assembly on the same topic.


Barry noted that act was stuck in committee and never went before the General Assembly and said he learned many who voted against it in committee opposed the idea because the city was not getting enough input from the people.


I was criticized by some for not putting it to a referendum, he said, pointing out that a referendum cannot amend the city charter since it is a Private Act charter.


The referendum would only determine how the citizens feel about the idea of limiting how long city elected officials.


Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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