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BMA begins budget talks

By Curtis Carden

Town of Unicoi officials met for a budget work session at Unicoi Town Hall on Wednesday, May 4, in preparation for the first reading of, and vote on, the 2016-17 fiscal year budget.

According to information provided by the town, $1,569,881.15 worth of expenditures are projected for the coming year. This leaves the town with a projected budget deficit of $10.15 if no changes are made to the budget.

An increase in expenditures in the coming year was expected, according to discussion held during the meeting, as various projects are still underway in the town. One of the largest expenditures in the coming year will be continuing work on the Mountain Harvest Kitchen. The town has budgeted $50,500 for the final pieces of construction. This figure includes $1,000 added by officials during the meeting to be used, if needed, during the search for a manager of the facility. Town Recorder Larry Rea said the town will be holding a “nationwide” search for the position, which will pay $60,000 annually. He also said plans to complete the final phase of construction were expected to be sent out for bid in the coming weeks.

Officials also reworked numbers in staffing expenditures due to the new additions of employees Mike Housewright and Sarah Jennings to the town. It was agreed upon that Housewright, who was making $40,000 in his current position as assistant to town recorder, would be paid $48,000 annually, following Rea’s retirement and Housewright’s promotion to recorder. Included in the budget is pay for Rea to be used for 20 days following retirement, a total of $4,800, as a consultant when needed by the town. The upcoming budget recognized the elimination of one position due to Jennings’ serving as both public relations and parks and recreation director for the town, with the position paying approximately $35,000.

While budget talks and position realignment flowed smoothly, donations to nonprofits were approved – to a certain degree.

“We can go ahead and place their donation in a line item,” Mayor Johnny Lynch said, “but we need to wait to get the paperwork back from each organization before giving the funds out.”

Lynch and Rea both stated that the town requires an organization to submit specific paperwork to request funding. Out of the 15 organizations seeking funds from the town during the next fiscal year, only one submitted complete paperwork with an audit.

Vice Mayor Doug Hopson did make a motion that the town donate $2,500 to assist Recover Appalachia. The town also placed $2,000 in a line item for the Unicoi Church of God Food Bank.