Johnson City has put off a tax increase for twelve years, but Wednesday Mayor ralph Van Brocklin said at the city's budget workshop he doesn't see how the city can generate any more revenue without it.
The meeting included a great deal of debate between the five city commissioners and the mayor. The meeting lasted over three hours and there's still so much to decide. First on the agenda was laying out all the options on the table. Should commissioners cut the budget? Liquidate assets that are money drains? Identify cost-savings? These are all things that were up for debate at Wednesday's workshop.
So far the proposed budget is based on a 1% revenue increase... that's not a lot according to the board. The commissioners say that's not enough to stay on track for the 2015 fiscal year. The proposal is to cut at least three positions: a special prosecutor, fire marshal, and a senior service manager. Also, it is proposed to reduce funding for things like snow removal, fire department helmets, videos for official meetings, and temp workers in the public works department.
The hot topic of the night: Education. Mayor Vann Brocklin says the school system is in a $3.4 million hole. The mayor told said he doesn't see how a property tax increase can be avoided if they are going to help Johnson City Schools. He says, "I don't think it's inevitable, because it's up to five commissioners and there's a definite division on this commission about where or not a tax increase will occur. I don't think it's inevitable. It'll be a very tight vote one way or another."
There are more budget workshops planned. They will look at what to do about Freedom Hall. The mayor says the event facility is facing an operating deficit of $250,000. We're told they'll also look at area golf courses. They are asking for more than a half million dollars from the city. The next meeting is set for Thursday afternoon.