BY DAVID FISHER
GLEASON (July 25) — During a special-called meeting and public hearing on Monday, July 25, the Gleason Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the second and final reading of an ordinance establishing the City of Gleason’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2023.
FY 2022-2023 Budget
An ordinance adopting the town’s annual operating and capital budget and tax rate for FY 2022-2023, was approved 4-1, with Alderman Wade Cook casting the only dissenting vote.
The ordinance sets the property tax rate at $1.6638 per $100 of assessed value, which is unchanged from the previous year.
The following is a breakdown of appropriations that were passed:
- General Government: expenditures = $203,990
- Police: expenditures = $431,620
- Fire: expenditures = $101,450
- Public Works: expenditures = $208,480
- Park & Rec: expenditures = $38,720
Total General Fund: revenues = $984,660; expenditures = $984,260
- Solid Waste: revenues = $158,775; expenditures = $155,975
- State Street Aid Fund: revenues = $53,500; expenditures = $50,000
- Drug Fund: revenues = $10,500; expenditures = $3,400
- Library: revenues = $19,800; expenditures = $17,795
- Water and Sewer: revenues = $491,907; expenditures = $485,120
Total General Government Budget: revenues = $1,211,430; expenditures = $1,661,700
The board also voted unanimously to purchase a new sewer-jetting machine. ARPA funds will be used for this purchase.
Water Rate Increase
Although the budget contains no property tax increase, an increase in the water and sewer rates is on the horizon.
“We have a plan to increase the rates, but we haven’t set that in motion yet,” Mayor Charles Anderson said. “FEMA has advised us to raise our rates before the State Comptroller’s Office raises them for us.”
Mayor Anderson stated the amount of the increase will be based on the outcome of an ongoing audit of the city’s financial records.
The city’s water and sewer department are required by law to be self-funded, and if the city fails to raise its rates, the State Comptroller’s Office will have no choice but to issue an order adjusting the rates as it deems necessary.
The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts recommends the City of Gleason implement an automatic rate increase of three to four percent, or whatever the consumer price index happens to be at the time. Because inflation is soaring and prices are going through the roof, the city’s costs are rising, and the rates can’t stay the same.
On-Premises Beer Consumption
During the board’s June 20 and July 18 regular monthly meetings, the subject of on-premises beer consumption was discussed.
The two main reasons for allowing restaurants to serve customers beer with their meals, centered on bringing new businesses to Gleason and increasing local sales tax revenue.
“We don’t have a restaurant that’s asking for it,” Mayor Anderson said. “We just feel like this would be an invitation for restaurants to come here, if they knew that was available.”
Mayor Anderson pointed out, small towns like Gleason, struggle with their budgets.
Alderman Keith Radford stated, due to budgetary shortfalls, the board needs to raise new revenue. In order to accomplish this, he discussed the possibility of allowing the sale and consumption of beer on the premises of local establishments, such as restaurants, and that all of these funds be earmarked for the city’s park program.
It was stated that approving on-premises beer consumption would help the City of Gleason compete with other nearby municipalities. Otherwise, local citizens will continue to travel to other towns where they can eat in restaurants where beer is sold, which supports the budgets of other cities, instead of their own local economy.
This represents a loss of sales tax revenue, which is needed to address Gleason’s long-term revenue issues.
City Attorney Beau Pemberton remarked that the city’s code requires such businesses be no closer than 300 feet measured from the property line of business that serve beer to the property line of churches, schools or playgrounds. He stressed this is for beer sales only, and does not include hard liquor by the drink, which is not under consideration.
Board members stated they are not ready to approve an ordinance allowing the consumption of beer on the premises of local establishments at this time, however, they did vote to authorize a study regarding the issue, so they would have better information before making a decision.
Pemberton agreed to study the proposed beer ordinance further and present a report during the August board meeting. At that time Pemberton will advise board members whether they need to amend the existing ordinance or draft a new ordinance. “I can report back and tell you step-by-step what you’re going to have to do, should you choose to pursue it.”
Mayor Anderson said, “It’s probably a long way off, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Building Code Enforcement
During last week’s regular monthly meeting, Pemberton gave the board an update concerning building code enforcement and sale of condemned property.
Pemberton stated dilapidated properties located at 114 Vincent St. and 303 Phelps St., which were ordered to be repaired or demolished, have been sold. Mayor Charles Anderson stated the new property owners will be given a reasonable amount of time to either make repairs or tear down the residential structures.
Additionally, condemnation proceedings are moving forward on a property located at 500 College St.
At the board’s request, Mayor Anderson said he would have the city’s code enforcement officer investigate the condition of a property at 110 Irwin St. and another structure on East Grove Road.
Water Tank Maintenance
MTAS representative Steve Wyatt addressed the board regarding water tank maintenance, which involves draining and cleaning the interior of the tank.
Mayor Anderson states water tank maintenance is set up on a five-year plan. “It’s going to be a major capital project, and we’re planning on using some TDEC funds to do that. But, we don’t know the cost for that yet. We’ll discuss that in detail, probably at the August meeting.”
The board is also considering repainting the water tank.
In addition to water tank maintenance, plans call for using TDEC funds to purchase electronic water meters and for sewer rehab. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get all those done with the $1.6 million TDEC money allotted to us,” Mayor Anderson said. “That’s a lot of money, but these kinds of projects are very expensive. One of the projects is going to fall under expense and be amortized in our water account. I just want to make sure when we commit to any of these projects, we have sufficient income to get the work done.”
Before proceeding with these projects, Mayor Anderson said, “We’re waiting on our city engineers to give us some numbers to see how much these projects are going to cost.”
Boom Mower Attachment
Board members also discussed purchasing a tractor with a boom mower attachment. However, they decided it can wait until later.
In keeping with the tradition of having a local student or business owner to lead those present in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the mayor called upon Audie and Bobbie Ruble, owners of Rolling Hills Miniature Golf, to do the honors.