Town officials attempt to prioritize budget needs

Town workers finish up a sidewalk project on East Main Street. The Town Council has made revamping sidewalks a priority. Photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

The Franklin Town Council spent last weekend working in a budget retreat to begin the process of developing the town’s 2020-2021 budget.
During the retreat town leaders directed Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard as to what they believed to be the top priority moving into the next fiscal year.
“The biggest priorities for the Town for FY 20-21 will be to continue working on the repair and maintenance of Town sidewalks and evaluate ways to create more recreation opportunities at the Jaycee Park in Town,” said Woodard.
The town is in the middle of finalizing a Comprehensive Plan that will lay out future infrastructure needs such as sidewalks. The final draft of that plan will play a huge part into the town’s overall budget, which sits at just over $4 million.
After receiving direction from town officials during the budget retreat, Woodard will establish a draft budget to present to town leaders next month.
“The Town Council will be given a proposed budget schedule to look at and vote on during the March 2, Town Council meeting,” said Woodard. “The Town will have a revenue budget planning session in April and then a full budget work session in May.”
County government are in full swing in regards to their budget as well, with various departments throughout the county such as school board and public safety developing budgets to present to the county manager.
“On Feb. 13, we held the Department Head Budget kickoff meeting where department heads were given their individual budget workbooks,” said County Manger Derek Roland. “I am currently awaiting submittal of these by each individual department. FY ’21 departmental budgets will be submitted in early March and meetings will then be held with individual department heads to discuss their respective budgets and any changes.”
The county’s budget toped $52 million last year and included a tax increase that raised an additional $1 million specifically for public education priorities, something commissioners advocated for. According to Roland, priorities in the upcoming fiscal year will also be determined by the board.
“The main priority is to be sure the budget reflects the goals set forth for this organization by the Macon County Board of Commissioners,” said County Manager Derek Roland. “With this in mind, the driving force behind preparation of every recommended budget is to be sure that Macon County citizens are being provided effective public services in the most efficient manner possible.”
While the budget planning process for the county is in its early stages, one significant project being planned for are renovations to Macon Middle School. The complete building overhaul will have an estimated price tag of $15 million – so financing such a significant project will have to be part of the annual budget.
Commissioners debated different funding avenues during last month’s county commissioner meeting. The county’s overall debt load sits at $25 million currently – $22 million of which is directly attributed to school construction. The middle school project could add another $15 million to the debt load if the county decides to take out a loan for the project.
Other funding possibilities include looking at placing a referendum on the November ballot for residents to vote on a quarter cent sales tax that would allow additional revenues to be raised to be specifically earmarked for public education. Deciding the best avenue to take will likely be the focus during the remainder of the budget planning process.