City begins talks on budget
By Reid Posey
More businesses around town means more tax revenue and more tax revenue could mean more future projects to help Oxford adjust to the growth it’s experienced in recent years.
Mayor Pat Patterson presented both the past year’s revenues, as well as projected revenues for 2016-2017 at the Oxford Board of Aldermen’s first round of annual budget hearings Monday at City Hall.
However, the expected increase in tax revenues can’t be estimated into projected revenues.
Some businesses that have opened just recently, such as the new Marriott Hotel, have not been open long enough to report tax revenue. It takes three months for new businesses to be able to report tax revenues to the city.
Patterson then presented a breakdown of where this revenue money would be dispersed back into various organizations, departments, and projects, including things like the Oxford Tourism Council, the Arts Council, resources for the Buildings and Grounds department, the Double Decker Arts Festival, various bond payments, and assorted expenditures.
After going over revenue reports, the Board also discussed several projects around the city that might need attention in the upcoming year.
The major projects that they discussed included the ongoing construction on Price Street, as the road is redirected to intersect with Molly Barr Road further down from the Oxford Activity Center, putting in a roundabout at the intersection of College Hill Road and McElroy Drive by the SkyMart Convenience Store, and a possible extension of Allison Cove.
Patterson also brought up the possibility of widening Jefferson Avenue, particularly working on it at its intersection with North Lamar Boulevard by Lindsey’s Chevron. Several on the Board pointed out that with the new parking garage coming to the parking lot behind Lindsey’s, the uptick in traffic that would come with it would probably necessitate improvements to this street.
Throughout the meeting, representatives from various departments of the city government made presentations to the Board about their budgets moving forward from the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
The budget proposals began with Jimmy Allgood, director of Emergency Management. His proposed budget included a $1,500 increase for additional mosquito control and $2,000 to cover the cost of medallions and identification for Oxford taxicabs. The money for the taxis was flowing back into the general budget, but not back into the specific department budget, so Allgood proposed allocated this extra funding to cover these costs.
Allgood said that the proposed budget also includes the cost of a new $7,000 mosquito sprayer. Not only is the current sprayer 11 years old, but it also requires a pesticide that costs anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 per 55-gallon drum. The new mosquito sprayer would utilize a water-based solution instead, which costs a much more affordable $85 per 55-gallon drum.
The majority of Allgood’s proposed increases, however, are tied to a project that would get Emergency Management, the Fire Department, Public Works, and Sanitation on a new municipal radio system. Rather than dividing the cost of the project between multiple departments, they decided to place it under the same line item under Emergency Management.
Next up was Randy Barber, building official with Building and Development. Barber said that his proposed budget was mostly the same as last year’s, with the only significant variation coming from a proposed purchase of a new truck for the department to replace the current 2004 model truck as well as for a new computer.
After Barber was Donna Fisher with the Municipal Court. The court’s proposed budget was also relatively the same as last year’s, with the most important increases coming in areas such as salaries and occupational services.
Next, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Billy Lamb presented his department’s proposed budget. The significant changes proposed were additional funds just in case any emergency project arises in the coming year, funds for file storage space, and the hiring of a new employee for his morning work crew.
City Clerk Ashley Atkinson then presented information for a variety of areas, mentioning that they are awaiting recommendations from the Compensation Committee for any proposed change in salaries.
Atkinson also mentioned increases to the Elections budget from $10,000 to $12,000 in the face of upcoming city-wide elections in 2017.
Atkinson also explained that for the upcoming fiscal year, they would be dividing the health insurance costs among the separate departments, rather than gathering these costs under the same umbrella of the General Government budget.
Rounding out the meeting, both Atkinson and Human Resources Director Braxton Tullos mentioned proposals regarding personnel and salary matters for their respective departments.
The figures presented before the Board at this first meeting are merely preliminary figures, subject to change in the coming weeks until the budget is finalized and adopted by Sept. 15.