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Clary's first budget includes road improvements, hefty trash fee hike

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Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary presented his 2017-18 fiscal year budget to city leaders at a workshop April 12 at the Hendersonville Public Library. TENA LEE

While spared a property tax increase, Hendersonville residents could see a $42 hike on their annual trash collection bill as well as long-needed road improvements and longer library hours, according to Mayor Jamie Clary's proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget.

Clary, who was elected mayor in November, presented what he estimated to be a nearly $50 million budget during a workshop April 12 with the city's department heads and aldermen at the Hendersonville Public Library.

Clary told aldermen the goals for his first budget were to increase the city's general fund balance from $4.57 million to $4.75 million; increase government services at a rate consistent with the city's size; invest in infrastructure; prevent employee lay-offs; and provide a .5 percent cost of living increase and a 2.5 percent merit increase for employees.

He said he hopes to accomplish this without raising the city's current property tax rate of 75.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. City leaders last raised property taxes in 2015 by 10 cents.

Clary is proposing borrowing a little over $4 million in the form of a bond: $2 million to re-construct a new fire station #2 on Free Hill Road; $2 million for the paving and sealing of roads; and $120,000 for the resurfacing of two inline hockey rinks at Veterans Park.

The mayor's budget also includes the implementation of a storm water utility management program estimated to cost around $1.3 million annually. Like in many surrounding cities, that cost will be passed on to residents in the form of a fee on users' water bills. City leaders have yet to determine what the fee amount will be.

Mayor: Trash fee would likely decrease in 2019

Clary said he was proposing to raise the annual trash collection fee from $263 to $305 in order to pay off the city's obligation to repair the Capp's Gap land fill. The closed landfill north of the city is owned by the Sumner County Resource Authority of which the city has a 2/7 ownership. The landfill was found to be in violation of state regulatory requirements in 2015. Clary said the city's share of repairing the land fill and getting it in compliance with EPA standards will be around $268,000 - significantly lower than previous estimates.

The mayor added he would expect the increased trash fee - a separate line item listed on residents' annual city property tax notice - to decrease the following year after the Capp's Gap obligation is paid off.

When asked why the landfill obligation wouldn't be paid in the form of a bond item as proposed by previous Mayor Scott Foster, Clary said he preferred to borrow money for long-term items like road and drainage improvements and a new fire hall.

Following the release of a Pavement Management Survey, the first of its kind for the city, some aldermen and residents have said they want to see more than $2 million go toward paving and sealing the city's roadways.

Clary said he doesn't disagree and admitted his budget will more than likely change significantly.

"Half of Hendersonville thinks they have the worst road and now they're finding the city has a lot of bad roads," said Clary.

A recent pavement assessment conducted by Data Transfer Solutions showed that just 34.29 percent of the city's roads received a "good" rating with the remainder of the city's roadways rated as satisfactory or below.

The mayor also said residents have told him they want to see the city's library open on Fridays. The library is run by Sumner County government with the city contributing around $50,000 a year. Clary said he was told by members of the county's library board that if the city contributed $68,000 more a year, the facility could operate on Fridays and stay open later on Saturdays.

Clary encourages residents to have input on the budget by contacting aldermen and his office with what they believe the city's priorities should be.

"I want to hear from residents and constituents now what our priorities should be - not in May or June," he said.

By law city leaders have until July 1 of each year to pass the next fiscal year budget. To view the proposed budget as well as previous city budgets, go to the city's website at hvilletn.org, select "departments" and then select "finance."

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