City balances budget by cutting recreation

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

With cuts to expenditures and increases in rates at Lewisburg's Recreation Center, the City Council has balanced its budget for next year.

Councilmen unanimously approved the second reading of the 2010-'11 budget late last week, and decided to conduct a third and final vote on the budget at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 22.

Before settling on that date, councilmen spent more than two hours in a budget workshop Thursday afternoon, discussing problems and solutions.

A chief concern is funding for the Recreation Center. Some $1.2 million was budgeted for it last year when it brought in only $300,000, Councilman Robin Minor said.

Councilmen agreed proposed fee increases as follows:

* Season tickets for golf go up by $100;

* The daily rate for nine holes of golf goes from $8 to $10;

* Golf cart rental goes from $4 to $6 per day;

* And the daily fee for using the pool doubles from $2 to $4, though it now includes both indoor and outdoor pools. Children younger than age three are still admitted free.

Cuts of $28,000 were accomplished with Parks and Recreation Department leaders. The reductions include $10,000 from proshop and security salaries. The rest come from cutting back on maintenance and repair spending.

"We need to talk about free golf," said councilman Quinn Stewart. "Henry Horton (State Park) just got audited because they were giving out free golf."

Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was asked about recurring information that some people played free at the state park's golf course just south of Chapel Hill. TDEC received recurring reports from the general public about it and department officials investigated, Fyke said. Some people have worked for free at the park and were allowed to play at no charge.

Stewart said Lewisburg needs a "No free golf" policy.

Guy Chambers, manager of the city Recreation Department, argued against that.

"I've never seen a golf course where the employees couldn't play," he said. "If you take something like that away from them, it shows you don't care."

After extensive discussion, the council came around to his view and agreed that Rec-Center employees, including part-timers and volunteers, could play golf at no charge.

This privilege is not to be extended to other people, Stewart emphasized.

"If I find that the one I'm talking about is giving out any more free golf, I'm raising hell," she said.

Stewart also raised the subject of the Terry Wallace, whose title on the Marshall County Web site is director of economic development.

"Terry hasn't brought in enough jobs," Stewart said. "He's making $66,000 a year. We need to see something for our money. People have come to me about it, and I feel like we're accountable to our voters."

Councilman Ronald McRady agreed.

"I've made the statement twice in open meetings: We need to be more proactive," McRady said. "We need to go wherever and not come back until we have an industry. We're selling ourselves short."

Stewart continued, "I've heard him jokingly saying he doesn't really e-mail. We need an industrial recruiter who is up-to-date on technology."

McRady concluded, "We need to let him know we're not pleased. If we don't get results we may need to make a change."

Meanwhile, Lewisburg is getting one-time budget help in the next fiscal year from two sales:

* $110,000 to be paid by the Water Department for 10 acres of land;

* $19,000 from the sale of timber at the business park.

Lewisburg is to get a percentage of the timber price, and the company hired to do the harvesting said $19,000 was the minimum the city could expect, according to City Treasurer Connie Edde.

The council also discussed holding city elections in August instead of May.

"We could save $12,000 every two years," reported Stewart.

"Most people have no idea the city election is in May," Mayor Barbara Woods said.

The city charter would have to be changed to allow this, and some councilmen would end up serving longer.

"Let's try to get it done," Stewart said, although she added, "I want to vote to save money, but I don't want to vote to increase my own term. Let's at least put it on the agenda."

The Town of Cornersville has recently moved its election to November from June and, according to Cornersville Administrator Taylor Brandon, it should save about $6,000 each time the town holds an election.