The city of Collegedale’s budget was passed and the tax rate set for fiscal year 2023-2024 at the commission meeting Monday night. The property tax rate will be $1.55 for every $100 of the assessed value for a property, up from the current rate of $1.3897, which is a 12 percent increase. Commissioner Tonya Sadler questioned multiple planned expenditures before being the only vote opposed to adopting the budget.
The city received a $93,000 grant that she said led her to believe it would be used to buy six police vehicles, yet the budget entry is for “equipment” that will be used by the police department. City Manager Wayon Hines explained the grant could be used to purchase either the cars or equipment to outfit them such as radios.
Commissioner Sadler also said she would not vote on the budget because she had not yet been given answers about some “questionable” expenses she had inquired about earlier. She listed the items of her concern as several charges for food, $50 to a nail salon and 55 cents to Dollar Tree for a card. She also was concerned that the city pays 100 percent of health insurance for certain employees. And she questioned if their families were covered 100 percent by the city. And because of those expenses, she asked to postpone the first vote on the budget until she could see the receipts and discuss it at the next commission workshop.
In reply, City Manager Hines said the nail salon charge had accidently been made to the wrong credit card and had been repaid to the city. Commissioner Debbie Baker added that regarding the food charges, the city manager has the discretion to buy food for events such as an employee’s retirement party. She said her concern is if something is appropriate spending, it is not cost effective with employee’s time to have them spend eight hours looking for 55 cents.
Both Commissioners Baker and Katie Lamb said they look for answers prior to a voting meeting. Vice Mayor Tim Johnson said there are items in this budget that he challenged before the time for the final vote and there are considerations and compromises that must be made, such as raises for employees. While they are high, they are needed because the city has to be competitive to retain employees, he said. Another disagreement he has is about the number of police cars to buy, which he said will prevent a prior situation where the department fell behind with equipment. One solution will be to sell any excess police cars. “I’m going to vote for the budget even with some disagreements,” he said. Regarding insurance, Commissioner Baker said only key employees have 100 percent of their insurance paid, and they pay 88 percent of the cost for their families. It is part of their benefits package and considered to be part of their salaries, she said.
"I think we need to move on with the first vote for the budget. We have had adequate time to review it since the workshop meeting," said Mayor Morty Lloyd. The vote to adopt the 2023-2024 budget passed on the first reading with a vote of four in favor and only Commissioner Sadler opposed.
Real estate developer Barry Payne applied for and received approval to rezone a 5.6-acre parcel at 9422 Lee Highway from Industrial to Shopping Center Commercial. The planning commission and staff had approved the zoning change. The property is currently vacant and is surrounded on three sides by industrial zoning. Current plans are for part of the property to hold a nationally branded coffee shop, which will be subdivided to make it a separate property. Mr. Payne will develop the remainder, which he told the commissioners that he sees as a complementary development to Cambridge Square. Mayor Lloyd said he believes that this project will be really good for Collegedale.
The city is repaving Swinyar Drive at City Hall along with portions of Tallant Road and Sherry Lane. The commissioners voted to accept the single bid that was received for $1,880,599. The money will come from the combined paving budgets for fiscal year 2023 and part from the 2024 budget that begins July 1. Commissioner Sadler wanted to postpone accepting the bid until it could be included in the agenda packet for the public to review. The city manager said if postponed, the project could be put off by the state, who will be overseeing it, until late summer or fall. Additionally, he said that only one bid had been received. The vote was four in favor of approving the bid with Commissioner Sadler abstaining because the public had not reviewed it.
Eric Sines, director of public works, said one lane will remain open during the work, as is customary for access to emergency vehicles and so no residents will be trapped. The work will be starting the second or third week of June so it can be finished before the Fourth of July.
The lowest of four bids was approved for the annual sewer cleaning and CCTV (security camera) inspections for part of the wastewater collection system. The amount approved for the work is $66,837. Again, Commissioner Sadler abstained from the vote, saying the bid had not been reviewed by the public.
The Collegedale city code was amended on the final reading to match state law. The person serving as the city judge will no longer be required to be a resident of Collegedale, but will be required to live in Hamilton County.
Larry Hanson, who passed away last week, was remembered as a city commissioner who listened to everybody and did his homework before he voted. He was a very special person, said Commissioner Lamb. “We definitely appreciate his service to the city,” said Vice Mayor Johnson.