Loudon City Council authorized Monday the second and final reading of its 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the budget had few changes from last year, Ty Ross, Loudon city manager, said.
While there is no cost-of-living adjustment, employer contributions to the city employee share of the health benefit fund led to a budgeted increase of $260,210.
Proposed capital projects total $6.5 million, with the 2020-21 paving plan discussed at previous workshops and meetings using a $4 million loan. The Queener Road improvement project costs $1.25 million, but $1 million of that is reimbursable by a federal grant.
The remaining $1.25 million will be spent on traffic signalization improvements, which is fully reimbursable by a grant.
Equipment purchases include Loudon Police Department laptops to be placed in squad cars. Half of the fleet’s laptops will be replaced this year and the other half next year, which splits the cost into two payments of $37,500.
Loudon Fire Department will have a 25-year-old fire truck replaced under a five-year lease at $134,873. A $25,000 leaf machine for Loudon Public Works was also deemed necessary.
Councilmen Tim Dixon and Johnny James motioned and seconded, respectively, to approve the budget, which passed with a 3-2 vote. Councilwoman Tammi Bivens and Councilman Tim Brewster opposed.
“The loan that they were talking about that was in there, I don’t feel that it was addressed publicly enough that that loan was going to be in there,” Bivens said. “I think we could’ve waited another year and not had that extra debt on top of us, because next year our debt issuance drops, and then we could’ve added it, and our payment wouldn’t have changed any. It would’ve been the same as it was this year. This year, I just felt like we were loading a lot on ourselves, not knowing what COVID is going to do.”
Brewster said he wanted to address specific line items within departments with each department head in a special-called meeting, but the meeting never happened. He said he saw places where money could be saved, and he wanted to talk to department heads about it.
“When the mayor says ‘no’ (to a special called meeting), it takes a majority of the council to call a special-called meeting,” Ross said. “The mayor in turn told the council members and did not find a majority that desired a meeting.”
At the first reading of the budget, Dixon requested firefighter compensation be brought “more in line” with police officer compensation, Ross said. At the June workshop meeting, council was presented with the option to phase in the pay scale upgrade in 1-3 years, and council chose the one-year option leading to a $175,586 increase in the budget.
Dixon and Brewster motioned and seconded, respectively, to approve the $175,586 increase, which passed 4-0. Bivens abstained from voting because the resolution directly impacted her household.
In other news, Loudon City Council:
• Kept the 2020 tax rate at $1.2367.
• Amended the Loudon municipal code title 17, chapter one, regarding refuse and trash disposal.
• Approved the first reading to rezone property at Cedar Park Drive from C-4 Interchange Commercial District to R-3 Urban Residential District.
• Approved the first reading to rezone property at Queener Road from R-1/F-1 Suburban Residential District/Floodway District to R-3/F-1 Urban Residential District/Floodplain District.
• Approved the first reading to rezone property at Corporate Park Drive from R-1/F-1 Suburban Residential District to C-2/F-1 Highway Business District/Floodplain District.
• Ratified the contribution and economic development agreement for the expansion and improvement of public works facilities of the water system approved by Loudon Utilities Board.
• Approved additional paving work on Highland Avenue.
• Authorized the purchase of a 2020 Ford F550 and dump body for the Public Works Department.
• Authorized maintenance department obsolete equipment and parts to be considered surplus.