Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen Feb. 10, 2020 (copy)

The Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the city’s $3.39 million budget on June 18 with no tax increase, but several planning commissioners questioned whether two large-scale expenditures were necessary.

The budget includes funding for a new $350,000 maintenance building and a $12,000 air-conditioning unit for a concession stand at Sanders Park.

The board approved the budget 3-0 with Vice Mayor Richard Gulley and Aldermen Jimmy Wayne Sanders and Pam Arnold voting in favor.

Alderman Tammy Holt was absent and Mayor Michael Gillespie only votes in tie-breaking situations.

Planning Commissioner Mary Nell Hess addressed the board, saying that she thinks the city should hold off on anything it doesn’t immediately need because the city’s funding picture throughout the upcoming fiscal year is uncertain.

“Nearly every state governor, including ours, has cautioned city governments to be very conservative in maintaining budgetary reserves and to avoid large public works expenditures,” Hess said. “While we remain on watch for the remainder of the Phase I COVID-19 pandemic and the next wave, we should only expend funding for ‘must spends’ while avoiding nice-to-have improvements that can be made at any juncture in time.”

Hess questioned what categorizes a new maintenance building for the Street Department as a “must-spend” item.

“What unique need does it address that the current facility will not service in the next year or more?” she asked, then said: “If it only provides additional square footage, that is the weakest of all possible justifications.”

Hess said the same can be said about the air-conditioning unit for the concession stand, and with the combined cost of the maintenance building, the two items total about $400,000.

She said the maintenance building is not required by any state or federal mandate, and the city could hold off and save its money for a more pressing emergency situation.

Gulley said that just because the items are in the budget does not necessarily mean the city has to go through and complete them in the upcoming fiscal year.

He said the money needs to be approved in the budget if the city plans to do them, but if the financial situation turns bleak in the coming months, the projects could be delayed until conditions improve.

Gillespie said he concurs with Hess’ assessment about holding off on the building and air-conditioning improvements.

He said he recently attended a Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service meeting, and the consensus the agency has is to be frugal with expenditures.

With no property tax increase included in the budget, the rate remains at $1.207 per $100 in assessed property valuation, meaning the taxes on a $100,000 home will cost $301.75 annually.