Sharon ‘tentatively’ Passes First Reading of Budget

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The City of Sharon Board of Mayor and Alderman met in a special-called meeting to go over the first reading of the budget

MVP Regional Senior Investigative Reporter

Shannon Taylor

The City of Sharon tentatively passed it’s first reading of the budget after two meetings of discussion and with the understanding that certain problems would be fixed before the second reading.

At the first budget meeting held on June 15, the plan was to have the second reading by June 30 so the budget could pass by July 1, but that did not happen. Nearly a month later, a special meeting was called Thursday, July 14, to go over the budget again.

At the first budget meeting in June, it was noted that the city is under audit, so much of the budget was uncertain according to Mayor Donna Stricklin. “In order to submit this to the state, it’s got to be a balanced budget because last year it was submitted, it was not balanced.”

At the first budget meeting Stricklin said that the police department was in the black, meaning that they were under-budget, but at the second budget meeting held July 14, Stricklin said that the police department was $20,000 in the red, meaning they were over-budget. Stricklin also stated that the city’s budget was $75,000 in the red, but that also changed at the second meeting to being $191,000 in the red.

“The budget may need to be amended later on because we’ve had so much guesswork without having an audit,” Stricklin stressed.  Stricklin said that the current budget is supposed to be based off of a previous audit and that is unfinished at this time. “It’s balanced, but it’s going to be tight. We don’t have much wiggle room.”

At the second budget meeting, Stricklin said that Sharon had not changed its certified property tax rate. The tax rate for Sharon is currently at $2.0000 per $100 of assessed value and the state-recommended certified tax rate is $1.3027. Stricklin said that because of the tax assessment, property taxes went up by $6,000 so she was able to change the prediction of the property taxes that Sharon would get this year. “We’re like everyone else except Martin that’s going with the certified tax rate.”

One way Stricklin said she reduced items on the budget was police officers wouldn’t start receiving overtime pay until 43 hours were worked a week. Stricklin said, “We’ll just do what is required.” Police officers are non-exempt employees in the State of Tennessee and according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, “Tennessee labor laws do not have laws governing the payment of overtime. This means that federal overtime laws apply in the State of Tennessee. Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees are required to be paid one and a half times their hourly wages for any hours worked over 40 per week.”

Stricklin said that none of the funds were unbalanced except the general fund. “All of those funds were balanced before this meeting.”

ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds were a big concern for the budget. Stricklin asked city recorder Regina Lewis to go back through the previous meeting minutes and see what that money was spent on and what the remaining money was supposed to go to. Stricklin said that there is still ARPA money in the checking account and she’s trying to figure out if ARPA owes the general fund anything. Stricklin said that there were items put in the budget, but not put in the budget on paper. Stricklin said there was about $120,000 in the ARPA account. Stricklin said she’s searching for paper trails to see what was voted on. Lewis said she has not found anything going back in the minutes where anything was voted on.

Fire Chief Gary Eddings said that he didn’t understand why the fire department was so bad in the red. Eddings said, “From the estimated to what you’ve got budgeted, you’ve proposed taking out an extra $25,583 and the other in our government revenue, you’re still taking in the same without the grant or ARPA money — what’s put us so deep in the red this year versus all the other years?” Stricklin said, “From our last report from June 30 the last fiscal year, that’s why I say I believe ARPA owes general fund, because right here it says that our loss for this past fiscal year was $191,000.”

The city also received a bill from the IRS for $5,000 because in January, Social Security withholdings were not turned in for one-month solid resulting in the city accruing a penalty.

The Police Department also has a savings account with $10,000 in it, according to Stricklin, but neither she nor the board knew what the money was for or how it was supposed to be used.

The board voted unanimously to pass the budget on the first reading with the understanding that the items that needed to be looked into or fixed would be done. Aldermen were tentative to pass the budget, but Stricklin said that things would be looked into, including ARPA funds and the police departments savings account, among other things to get the budget balanced before the next meeting, which will be set soon.

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