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Budget Committee Meeting Minutes – March 8, 2024 (Approved)

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8 MARCH 2024

Chair Commissioner Erin Curry opened the meeting asking Commissioner Matt Rubelsky to offer a prayer and lead the pledge.  The minutes of the 9 February 2024 meeting were moved for approval by Commissioner David Adams, seconded by Commissioner Terry Jones, and were approved unanimously. 

County Executive (CE) Graham Stowe on being asked about announcements discussed the county’s potential bond rating, important since with a higher bond’s rating, the lower the interest rate it will carry, due to lower risk.   After discussions with a credit rating investors service, that noted the county has no debt (and no previous rating), and have taken positive steps to set fund balance policies and increase capital project savings, the county received a credit rating of AA2.  This places the county in the top 25% of Tennessee counties, and per the CE is the result of years of good financial management.  The $8.7M bond for Bridgeforth upgrades are now out for bid and by next Tuesday the county will know the actual interest rate based on that bond rating.  Financial Manager (FM) Beth Moore-Sumners noted that the Giles’ rating is higher than most surrounding counties.  While she would like to improve upon that already great rating, most of what can be done to improve is per the CE outside the county’s control, e.g., higher citizen income.  She also noted the rating is for county government only, and that the school system’s revenues and overcollection from county revenues were not considered.   She suggested that will require more consideration in future budgeting. 

The CE then mentioned that elected officials were again receiving a state-mandated 5% raise in compensation – which is the maximum – and that there is a widening gap between elected officials and county employees.  Given compounding inflation he recommended 5% as a goal, and making that employee raises more of a front-end goal rather than a secondary consideration at the end of the budget process. Commissioner Tracy Wilburn said the state salary increases does not cover county commissioners; the CE agreed, stating any raises for county commissioners must be effective at the next election, September 2026.  Commissioner Terry Jones said a flat rate could be done now.  Commissioners David Adams said with no raise for county employees, you could lose them, and he noted the difficulty of filling vacancies for specific skills, e.g. highway employees, sheriff’s office and ambulance service. Commissioner Evan Baddour said at end of day we are not addressing the revenue problem, even prohibiting some businesses from selling products that would generate additional revenue.  Commissioner David Wamble noted that the county helped their employees significantly 15 months ago by supplementing their insurance costs.  The CE responded that he just wanted to elevate the concern of the widening salary gap and that this needs to be deliberated in the next FY budget. 

The Chair then moved to the Amendment of the 2023-2024 budget, specifically the highway fund and the county general fund, with a handout showing each amendment.  The FM said that the highway amendment had been discussed with the highway committee chair and since there were no additional funds requested it was agreed the amendment could go straight to the budget committee.  The amendment itself was generally the result of an insurance recovery funding and moving funds within the highway budget to equipment; as well as movement within the budget for administrative costs and operation and maintenance of equipment costs.  With the Chair noting no public attending who might want to comment, she called for a motion on the amendment.  A motion by Commissioner Terry Jones, seconded by Commissioner Matthew Hopkins, was made and was approved unanimously. 

Next Agenda item the amendment for the County General Fund – The FM noted that within the solid waste funding that no new funds were requested, that the amendment covered moving funds within the budget.  For the General Sessions line, she noted that the state had provided the percentage of increase to the Judge’s salary, e.g. 4%.  The state has now provided an updated percentage that being 5%.  Since the medical insurance within that budget was not used, the funding was moved for the salary increase.  The last two changes to the budget included the ARP Immunization grant reclassification and the ARP local health capital investment grant.  The first was moved to a different location within the budget and the 2nd, the investment grant, had been approved in February 2023, and this amendment puts the entire grant in the budget.  A motion by Commissioner David Adams, seconded by Commissioner Gayle Jones, to approve was made and was approved unanimously. 

Old Business – The Chair asked that the website be updated to show the non-profit application is due in 2024 (rather than 2023).  The CE said he would make sure the change happens. 

New Business – The FM noted, after discussions with EMS Director Bill Myers, that funding may be short on ambulance/medical personnel, and will need to be considered in near future.  Commissioner Evan Baddour asked if this is the only budget to be addressed in the next full commission, with caveat per others that some could be brought up from the floor.   Matt Rubelsky gave an update from the earlier Ag Park meeting that on 15 March at 8:30 a.m., there will be a Giles County Agriculture celebration at the Giles County courthouse.

Motion to adjourn by Commissioner Gayle Jones, seconded by Matthew Hopkins, and was approved unanimously.

ATTENDEES:  Members of the Committee – Chairman Commissioner Erin Curry, other Commissioners Gayle Jones, Judy Pruett, Terry Jones, David Adams, Matthew Hopkins, Evan Baddour   Other Commissioners attending:  Joyce Woodard, Rose Brown, Shelly Goolsby, Joseph Sutton, Matt Rubelsky, Annelle Guthrie, James Lathrop, David Wamble, Tracy Wilburn, Brad Butler, Roger Reedy, Caleb Savage  Others:  County Executive Graham Stowe, Financial Management Director Beth Moore-Sumners, Shana Woodard, EMS Director Bill Myers, Assistant Director of Schools Tommy Hunter