By Crystal Burns
The Trenton Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the first reading of the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year budget last week, signing off a 2-cent property tax increase, a $350 raise for all city employees and a potential $40,000 surplus.
Mayor Ricky Jackson presented the numbers to the board.
Leaders estimate $3,796,121 in total revenues and $3,753,828 in total expenditures, leaving a potential surplus of $42,293 to be put in the city’s “rainy day” account (fund balance) or used to meet pressing needs elsewhere.
Alderman Bubba Abbott expressed concerns with city streets, noting the budgeted amount for asphalt is $25,000.
“I was hoping that would be twice that much in there because we’ve got so many side streets that need blacktopping, and our infrastructure has got to be up to date,” Abbott said. “But I understand the situation with that. We just can’t make the money, but we are concentrating on potholes right now.”
Alderman Rickey Graves said that it now costs about $80,000 to blacktop one mile.
“It’s a struggle to be able to pave a whole street,” he said. “All the products we work with have gone through the roof. Expenses have gone through the roof.”
Alderman Tony Burriss asked if some of the surplus could go toward additional asphalt if needed, and Jackson said the council would consider it “very seriously.”
Jackson said he has studied a way to put all of the revenue generated from the sale of city stickers into the Street Department budget but hasn’t been able to make the math work yet.
“I would love to see that happen,” he said. “I’d love to see the Police Dept. have its own budget.”
City Recorder Leigh Reynolds reminded the board that the city is in its final phase of construction of its Downtown Enhancement Grant, which will free up some money that could be placed in the Street Dept. budget next year.
Tax rate – The city had been operating with a certified tax rate of $1.61 per $100 of assessed value on all real and personal property. The county recently underwent a reappraisal, and the state calculated new tax rates for municipalities and school districts. Jackson said the state suggested the city raise its certified tax rate to $1.6157 to recoup the same amount of money it had been getting.
Jackson said the budget committee was already considering raising the tax rate by half a cent, so they decided to add 1.5 cents to their original estimate. The new rate of $1.63 means a citizen with an appraised house of $100,000 will pay an additional $5 in property taxes.
Pay raise – The budget gives every city employee a $350 raise. Jackson said that even when he served as an alderman on the budget committee, he periodically liked to give raises across the board rather than percentages.
Dog park – The city has applied for a $25,000 dog park grant from the Boyd Foundation. There is no match required from the city. The dog park would be located at Shady Acres Park.
“We’re going to try our best to get that $25,000,” Abbott said.
Leaf machine – Burriss said the Street Dept. is looking at purchasing a new leaf machine in the new budget. He also reminded board members and citizens that the city’s sanitation department is not a dump.
“We don’t take garbage out there and dump it,” Burriss said. “We take stuff we pick up off the streets, and we take it out there, we put it in roll offs to be carried off to a dump somewhere. We allow people from the city to bring their leaves and limbs out there that we can take care of, but the sanitation department is not a dump and we need to get that out of people’s minds.”
Firefighter hires and promotions – At the recommendation of Fire Chief Terrence Elam, the board hired David Hazzard, a 12-year firefighting veteran, and Jeremy Tillman, a 10-year veteran with the Milan Fire Dept., to replace two firefighters who resigned recently.
Elam also recommended promoting Lt. Corey Kesterson to captain and Nathan Haynes to lieutenant. The board unanimously approved the promotions.
Trenton Light & Water update – Trenton Light & Water General Manager Joe Wamble gave an update on the department. Crews are busy installing new utility poles where replacements are needed and trimming trees in the rights of way. Water employees are fixing leaks and working with Nsite, Inc. on Phase III of the downtown project.
Wamble said the department recently opened bids for its sewer rehab project, for which it received grant funding. The department will begin working on First Street towards the railroad tracks and behind the cattle sale barn on Eaton St. soon.
Wamble had good news about the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. Employees finished the dry test and wet test, and on May 28 both basins of the Sequencing Batch Reactor were at the desired level.
“That’s a milestone that we’ve met,” he said.
Operators successfully ran everything through manual controls and planned to do automatic controls the next day, with different tests planned through the week as experienced operations train the Trenton Light & Water team.
The next City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, June 11 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.