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BMA passes budget

Town employees will get a 5 percent raise while Jonesborough residents will see no change in their property tax rate in the upcoming fiscal year.
During a called meeting on June 22, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved, on final reading, the town’s budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Town residents will continue to pay property taxes at a rate of $1.28 per $1,000 of property. Fees related to garbage collection, water and sewer services will also remain the same in the upcoming fiscal year.
While the budget includes a 5 percent raise for employees, it does not include the funding of any new positions within the town.
In approving the budget on first reading at a meeting on May 31, Alderman Chuck Vest requested the town consider adding a new officer to the police force to alleviate the caseload of the town’s single investigator.
According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, a cost analysis put the hiring of that new officer at a minimum expense of $50,000.
“Outfitting an officer is just expensive, and then there is training and all that,” Browning said in a later interview. “It is $46,000 for pay and benefits alone.”
Ultimately, the position was left out of the new year’s budget.
“It was said from the get-go that our priority is trying to take care of our existing staff,” Browning said. “The board has a plan to increase salary levels so we can keep the staff we have.”
Vest made the motion to accept the proposed budget. That motion was seconded by Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald and passed unanimously. Alderman Mary Gearhart was absent.
“Thank you aldermen,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said after the budget vote. “I want to thank you for your good stewardship and care for our employees.”
Wolfe also thanked Abbey Miller, the town’s financial director, for counting to “guide our ship of state” when it comes to finances.
Miller was also lauded at last week’s meeting for her efforts in garnering an improved credit rating for the town.
Earlier this month, the town’s credit rating was upgraded two notches, moving from an A- to an A+.
According to Wolfe, it is the highest credit rating for the town in recent history.
The town recently refinanced some of its debt, issuing new bonds that were estimated to save the town $1.5 million over the life of the bonds.
“We ended up closer ot $1.7 million in savings,” Wolfe said. “That’s almost a $200,000 swing accounted for by the improved credit rating. So if you don’t think these things matter, you are wrong.”