By RACHAEL LONG
After spending several hours reviewing the budget with members of city staff earlier this month, the City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the FY 2019-2020 budget on first reading.
The proposed budget, which includes a $92 million spending plan, will not be adopted until after the completion of three formal public hearings.
The first of those hearings was held at the start of Tuesday’s City Commission meeting. The other two are scheduled for the June 10 and June 25 meetings. The second and final reading of the budget will take place during the June 25 meeting.
City Manager Kirk Bednar gave a brief synopsis of some of the budget highlights at Tuesday’s meeting.
Bednar said the proposed budget for FY 2020 is a “pretty significant increase” from last year’s budget. The majority of that increase, he said, comes primarily from two funds: the capital improvements fund and the funds carried over from FY 2019’s state street aid fund.
In the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) fund, Bednar said about $17 million in the FY 2020 proposed budget is related to the new police headquarters building.
“While it is a significant increase overall, it’s really related to some one-time things,” Bednar said.
In the general fund, the total expenditure budget is more than $40 million, an increase of $1.4 million or about 3.7% over last year’s budget. Bednar explained that adjustments to the pay plan and employee salaries are part of what is driving the expenditure increase.
Along with a 1.5% market adjustment “across the board,” Bednar said there is also funding for merit adjustments. City department heads will have the ability to provide adjustments for employees based upon performance.
The budget also includes new positions for the police and fire departments. Three new firefighter positions were added to the budget in order to begin preparing a workforce for future Fire Station 5. In addition, positions for two new police officers and one new police captain were added.
The sum of those six positions, Bednar said, totals more than $500,000 including salary, benefits, and the cost for equipment and uniforms.
Bednar said the debt service fund has seen an increase of about $150,000 in anticipation of a bond issue related to the police headquarters building.
The budget includes increases for transfers to a trust fund for post-employment benefits, Bednar said, to ensure the city can fund the retiree health insurance and life insurance promised to employees over the years.
City employees will, however, see a decrease in the proposed contribution the city makes to its retirement system, from 14% to 12%. Bednar said this change helped generate about $300,000 to fund some of the new positions for police and fire and stressed that the city was still contributing more than expected to the retirement system.
“The reality is we’ve been overfunding that for several years,” Bednar said. “…The actuaries say that we should be contributing 5.3%. So we’ll be more than double contributing what the actuaries tell us we should be.”
According to a recent city press release, other items included in the proposed budget include the following:
- Implementation of a customer self-service portal to allow customers to login and view water usage patterns
- New software to allow easier processing and tracking of open records requests
- An update to Brentwood’s fence regulations
- Replacement of the Police Department’s K-9 officer due to retirement
- Implementation of several projects at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library funded through the Holt bequest
City Commissioner Regina Smithson said she’s personally been thanked by city retirees who are impressed by the city’s retirement system.
“The staff that is so careful with the taxpayers’ money, the way that we try to utilize everything and we don’t overspend the fund for the employees [who] are retiring,” Smithson said. “That does not come without vision.”
Vice Mayor Ken Travis made a point to thank staff members for their work on the budget, especially regarding the retirement fund.
“I’m particularly impressed, like Commissioner Smithson, with the retirement fund, that we’re overfunding that,” Travis said. “It’s not just cities that are in trouble, states are in trouble…We’re not, we’re overfunding, we’re making the commitment, and I think we owe that to these great employees we have.”
The next budget-related public hearing will take place on Monday, June 10 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. For more information about the proposed budget, contact City Hall at 615-371-0060.