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Town of Jonesborough approves new budget; officials say focus is on the future


“We want to establish ourselves on a footing where we will not be living on the edge,”

Kelly Wolfe

Jonesborough Mayor


By LISA WHALEY

General Manager & Editor

[email protected]

Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed a 2016/2017 budget Thursday that officials say indicates a new direction for Tennessee’s oldest town.

“It’s creating a stable and sustainable organization,” said Mayor Kelly Wolfe after the June 30 morning meeting. “Nobody wants to overfund government and I’m philosophically opposed to that.

“But when your business model calls for everything going exactly right, to make ends meet, you don’t have a good business model.”

He believes the town’s new model is a solid plan for the future.

The budget, approved at the called Thursday meeting, establishes no changes in property tax and water rates, but does include a $2 increase in the town’s garbage collection rate.

“After the last meeting I had some comments from citizens who didn’t mind to pay the increase,” Alderman David Sell said. “(They) had no problem because of the service.”

The new rate will be $13.50 per month for families who recycle, and $15.50 for families who do not. Dumpster rates have been raised $10 per pickup.

Alderman Chuck Vest, who previously questioned the wisdom of the $2 discount for recyclers, was the only board member to vote no on the increase.

The increase, as well as the board’s decision to remove a vacant position at the water park and to delay new cruisers for the Jonesborough Police Department, were all a part of Jonesborough’s need to utilize the town’s resources wisely and to better prepare for the future expenses, according to Wolfe.

It also marks a change in direction over the past five years, where the focus was centered on employee compensation.

“It’s amazing in retrospect how much energy and financial resources it took for us to implement our pay plan over the past 5 years,” said Wolfe, referring to the town’s commitment to make employee payroll rates more competitive with the current market.

At the beginning of the process, Jonesborough staff compensation was woefully inadequate and that affected the health of the town, Wolfe said.

“We literally diverted most of our resources during that time to making that plan a reality,” he said. “But it’s paying huge dividends already.”

That is clearly evident when looking around at the growth of the town, Wolfe said.

“Our staff knows we are supportive of them. We compensate them to a level of performance we expect of them and they are performing.”

Though the 2016/2017 budget still had some compensation adjustments, the new focus is the town itself, town officials say.

“Now we’re investing in some longterm needs like a new firetruck, like additional paving of critical intersections around town, the completion of some tourism infrastructure like that Jackson Theatre,” Wolfe cited.

The garbage collection increase will go toward funding the next garbage truck. Other savings or budget postponements will be used to immediately address town needs and equipment.

“We want to establish ourselves on a footing where we will not be living on the edge,” Wolfe said.

The final general fund budget for 2016-2017 was approved at a total of $8.5 million.