The Anderson County Budget Committee is recommending no property tax increase for the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.
A press release from Finance Committee chair Commissioner Myron Iwanski (Dist. 8) sent to the media on Sunday, June 4, announces that the Budget Committee has completed its work on the county budget and is forwarding the committee’s recommendation to Anderson County Commission for their approval in the next phase in the budget approval process.
Commission will vote on the Budget Committee’s recommendation during their next meeting at 6 p.m. on June 13, in room 312 of the Anderson County Courthouse, in a special-called session the Commission has scheduled to discuss the budget.
“The proposed budget keeps spending in departments at current levels,” commented Iwanski in the press release. “We have a budget that controls spending and uses more conservative revenue targets. This will help us balance future budgets and help us start increasing our fund balance again.”
This year marks the first year the county has had to balance its budget under the 1981 Financial Management Law. Last year, County Commission approved switching from the county’s Financial Management Law of 1957 to the 81 law, giving budget proposal oversight to the county’s seven-member Finance Committee instead of the county mayor.
The press release notes that the county’s Budget Committee and Finance Department faced “several challenges” this year preparing the upcoming year’s fiscal budget.
Iwanski cited the county’s Emergency Medical Services’ department’s financial shortfalls, the accumulation of “continuing costs for legal fees,” the computer breach that was reported in August, and increases in employee medical insurance costs as challenges to balancing the budget.
The proposed budget includes funding for Information Technology staff, several building upgrades, and a capital outlay note to purchase a county senior center building, relocation expenses to move the General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge to a county owned building.
Another item of interest in the budget proposal is the county school budget.
According to the press release, the county school budget “restores the school property tax rate” by using school revenue increases in other areas to cover the cost of a two percent salary increase and one-to-one computer implementation.
“We appreciate Natalie Erb and the Finance Department’s hard work in preparing this budget. We also appreciate the cooperation of each of the county departments in helping address our financial challenges by proposing reasonable, level funded budgets,” Iwanski stated.
“The Budget Committee and Finance Department have done an outstanding job preparing a budget that maintains funding for services without a tax increase, despite all the challenges we face. The early involvement of the eight County Commissioners on the Budget Committee preparing the budget under the 81 Financial Management Act will streamline the process for review and approval by the full County Commission,” added County Commission Chair Steve Emert (Dist. 3) in the press release.
To review the proposed budget, the public may visit the Anderson County Government website at www.andersontn.org and click on the information under the Finance Department tab for more information.
At a public information session May 25, the Budget Committee unanimously approved Frank’s revised budget for the ambulance service.
In an emailed response from Iwanski to The Courier News on May 31, Iwanski discussed some of the issues the Budget Committee faced before their final vote to approve on May 31 Frank’s revised budget for ACEMS.
Although commissioners on the Budget Committee voted in favor of Frank’s revised proposal, Iwanski related that they were not in favor of the cuts she suggested to the number of ambulances.
“Several suggested she find cuts needed to balance the budget from areas in the EMS budget that do not affect the level of service or in other departments under the mayor. All department budgets (other than the Mayor’s department where spending exceeded revenue) had been approved in the previous meetings. This out of balance Ambulance Service budget is of concern to commissioners because we have had to provide the EMS with a $1.5 million ‘loan’ out of our dwindling fund balance (savings) over the last two years to make up for shortfalls,” Iwanski noted.
In a follow-up email on the EMS budget on Monday, Iwanski expressed that he hopes the mayor will heed the advice from commissioners to reduce spending and balance the EMS budget “in a way that does not cut down on the number of ambulances and the level of service.”
Frank was also contacted for comment. Her reply was: “I support a budget that does not place additional tax burden on the people of Anderson County, though I disagree with some of Commissioner Iwanski’s inaccurate, negative campaign styled statements. Commissioner Iwanski has worked hard on the budget since January, so I think we’re all ready to get it passed and move forward.”