Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Mayor to ‘get on with business’

Mayor Dan Eldridge will not veto the budget passed by the Washington County Commission during its called meeting Sept. 8.
After seeking input from several sources, including the state comptroller’s office and the county auditors, Eldridge said he received two different opinions.
“One was veto the budget, there is a lot to fix,” he said.
“The other was get on with business, the issues can be fixed as you go along.”
During the Sept. 14 Budget Committee meeting, Eldridge announced, “I have chosen the latter. Let’s get on with business.”
The goal of the meeting, he said, was to focus on a small number of items that absolutely had to be dealt with in order for the commissioners to take action on them during their Sept. 26 meeting.
The seven amendments discussed all passed on unanimous vote by the Budget Committee members.
Restoring the full funding to the First Tennessee Human Resources Agency was the first amendment proposed.
“This is one of three agencies that manages most of the federal and state programs in Washington County,” Eldridge said, including Adult Day Care and Meals on Wheels in a list of examples.
Almost $2,000 was cut in the budget, which would result in a cost of almost $20,000 to FTHRA. Commissioner Pat Wolfe made a motion to recommend restoring the funding to $19,977, the same amount provided from the 2010-11 budget. Commissioner Joe Grandy seconded the motion.
A bigger issue was created by the complete elimination of funding to the Economic Development Board.
County Attorney John Rambo explained growth policy 1101, passed by the state in 1988-89, which required the establishment of an economic development board.
Though Washington County already had one, made up of representatives from Johnson City, Washington County and Jonesborough, there was a provision in the plan as to how it would operate.
“One is they can establish their budget, and each entity pays its share,” Rambo said.
However, there are serious consequences should Washington County decide not to fund the EDB, such as county representatives not being allowed to vote or hold office. In addition, the county would not be eligible for federal grants.
“Until we certify we have funded their budget, Washington County will be ineligible for these programs,” Rambo said.
Saying it did not meet the spirit of policy 1101 if the county did not do its part, Grandy made a motion to recommend restoring the $146,206 budgeted for the EDB, and Wolfe seconded.
Including the $10,000 cut from the county commission travel line was recommended on a motion from Grandy that was seconded by Commissioner Mark Larkey. Eldridge explained $3,000 from that line has already been committed for an upcoming meeting in Murfreesboro.
Larkey also made motions to recommend restoring the dollars cut from the county mayor’s office that inadvertently reduced the salary of the mayor’s assistant, and did not leave enough to pay the insurance cost for the mayor and his assistant.
“I think there may have been some confusion. Last year was not a full year (of insurance costs), so it looked like excess,” Eldridge said.
Rambo said there is no question Washington County must fully fund its insurance policy.
A recommendation to restore budget dollars for the $6,500 actuarial study required as part of the audit was made by Wolfe and seconded by Larkey.
“This agreement was signed with the company after the June commission meeting,” Eldridge said.
“We’re expecting an invoice any day.”
The final recommendation to restore funding was to the contracts with other public agencies line.
The $50,000 cut eliminated the county’s agreement with the Wellness Center in Johnson City that allowed employees to join at a discounted rate.
This line item also included the contracted services of a Mountain States Health Alliance nurse. Eldridge said these programs have improved the health of county employees.
Larkey made the motion, which was seconded by Grandy.
The proposed amendments to the budget will be presented to the full commission for consideration during the Sept. 26 meeting.