Conservative budgeting planned

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The city of Kingston’s budget talks for the coming fiscal year kick into high gear soon, but City Manager David Bolling and other officials have already been hard at work crunching numbers.

“We’re still early in the process,” Bolling said. “The biggest thing is that we won’t be looking at any increases in our expenses for the coming year.”

The other side of the ledger is a different story, though.

“Revenue is what’s really bothering me,” Bolling said. “As we stagger out of the recession, sales tax projections are down all over the state.”

Bolling had to submit a preliminary budget plan for 2014-15 to city council by April 1. Council has several workshops. The city is required to have public meetings on its finished plan, and finalize the document by June 30.

Kingston depends on local sales tax for much of its revenue. But at a recent meeting of local officials from across the state in Nashville, Bolling said state officials issued a warning: Things are tough all over.

“That was the main point we heard in Nashville—to be conservative, to be ready for slow revenue,” Bolling said. “I think this is a year where we will submit a bare-bones sort of budget.

“Fortunately, we don’t have any big-ticket items to pay for this year.”
The state sales tax is 7 percent, with localities adding up to an additional 2.75 percent in local-option sales tax, making for a maximum of 9.75 percent. In Roane County, the local-option tax is 2.5 percent (9.5 percent total.)

With a couple of months remaining in the current fiscal year, Bolling said the state sales tax figures are right where they should be, at about 70 percent of expectations. The local-option returns are lagging behind expectations, however, at about 59 percent.

“The local is down in a lot of places,” he said. “That’s the part that bothers me.”

There’s still reason for optimism, Bolling said. The city is currently re-shopping its insurance plan, in hopes of finding a comparable package with a lower cost. Kingston is currently insured through the state, but Bolling thinks the time may be ripe for a move.

“The change should have some effect [on finances],” he said. “There’s so much fluctuation in insurance, I thought now was a good time to take a broader look.”

Another bonus for the city when it comes to this year’s bottom line — after a rash of big projects like the Ladd Landing Greenway and the new City Hall — there are no major expenditures looming on the horizon.
“No big-ticket items,” Bolling said. “We’re in a holding pattern there.”