Morristown City Administrator Tony Cox on Friday presented a proposed $39.9 million general-fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year that does not include a property-tax increase, but does provide a 2-percent cost-of-living-raise for city employees.
The proposed budget would result in a $507,500 drawdown in city reserves, but thanks to better-than-budgeted sales-tax revenues and spending restraint in other areas, city government would end this fiscal year with reserves equal to 18 percent of one year’s budget, 3 percent above the self-imposed 15-percent floor.
“I thought it was well-thought-out, and he did a nice job of making the most out of what we had,” Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney said Saturday afternoon. “I thought the capital expenditures looked logical, and I thought it was another good example of how our planners plan and how we manage our resources.”
In a departure from budget presentations in previous years, Cox gave Morristown City Council members specific spending options that are not included in his proposed budget. Based on history, Chesney said, he doesn’t anticipate a majority of councilmembers will support big-ticket amendments to the city administrator’s spending plan.
“I think that’s a reflection of the work he does and how organized he is,” the mayor said.
The first city council budget workshop will follow Tuesday’s meeting. A seven-hour workshop that will include a tour of the public works site, Heritage Park and other locations is scheduled for Thursday. Councilmembers will consider the proposed budget on first reading on June 4. Second and final reading of the budget will be on the June 18 council agenda.
Significantly, Cox’s proposed budget includes no money for the proposed community center. That will be a primary focus of Thursday’s marathon work session, during which Chris Camp, president of Lose Design, will update councilmembers on design progress and possibly offer a construction estimate.
Councilmembers begin budget deliberations riding what Cox characterized Friday as the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, a growth trend that’s been evident in Morristown.
During this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, there has been $162 million in capital investment and 664 new jobs, a number that does not count the jobs that will be created by Van Hool, a Belgian bus manufacturer, and other anticipated jobs.
The Morristown unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in April, which is lower than the jobless rate before the 2007 recession. Sales-tax receipts in Morristown grew 6 percent during this fiscal year, 2 percent over projections.
The recommended $507,500 drawdown in reserves is all roof-related, and Cox told councilmembers on Friday the roof expenses are not discretionary. Fixing the Morristown City Center roof will cost $325,000, and the cost estimate for finishing repairs to the roofs of three fire stations is $182,500.
2018-19 by the numbers
664 jobs created*
$162 million capital investment
6 percent rise sales tax revenues
3.7 percent unemployment
71 percent property tax from business/industry
*does not include Van Hool or other future employment