Johnson City

Johnson City Commission passes budget

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Johnson City has a budget after hours of debate on Friday night.  City commissioners passed the controversial budget with a split, 3-2 vote.

Commissioners David Tomita and Jeff Banyas and Vice Mayor Clayton Stout voted for it, while Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin and Commissioner Jenny Brock voted against it.

It's an amended version of the budget that passed in the second and first readings.

This version still cuts more than $320,000 from funding for non-profits. It also pushes back capital projects, like installing stop lights,  until next year. 

On the other hand, the budget does fund the Legion Street pool, the new Farmer's Market, and six additional law enforcement positions.

The city school system also received extra funds. Commissioners spent most of the night debating how to make that happen.

Commissioner Jenny Brock spoke first asking that a $.21 property tax increase be considered, $.10 of that would have gone to the schools.

The amendment was voted down in favor of a borrowing plan from Commissioner David Tomita.

Tomita's amendment includes $1.4 million in borrowed funds for the next year.

"What you do in private industry to retain your assets and provide for what you need, is you do short term borrowing, very inexpensive, very short term," said Tomita.

They city will put most of that $1.4 million into it's repaving and resurfacing budget to free up those funds funds for general use.  Schools will get $600,000 of the freed up money and another $600,000 will be on reserve in case the school system's spending is higher than expected.

The rest of the borrowed money will go towards paying off that loan and raises for city employees.

"We're taking a little bit of a risk but I think it's a well calculated risk that will end up paying off in the end," said Tomita.

Brock did not agree.

"I was hoping we'd fix the problem," she said. "We have a long-term, recuring problem that we have no recurring source of revenue for, so it was pretty disappointing to see we're going to borrow money."

During the debate over Tomita's amendment, Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin tried to pass a  $.12 cent tax increase as an amendment to Tomita's amendment. Van Brocklin's suggested was voted down.

It has been 12 years since Johnson City had a property tax increase.

"If we'd raised them two or three cents all along, we wouldn't be here where we are right now," said Brock.

Over the next year the city has asked the school system to review their budget so the commission can create a new plan once this loan runs out..

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