The City of Clarksville has prepared a proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-24 totaling $155,800,710 in expenditures for the City General Fund.
annual fiscal guide is being reviewed by the City Council with anticipation of adopting it before June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
While the City budget covers funding for a broad spectrum of City priorities, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts and the administration are proposing no change in the current City property tax rate of $1.23 per $100 assessed property value, for the coming fiscal year.
“We have worked hard to present a budget proposal that is balanced, maintains a healthy but realistic fund balance, invests in our workforce, and truly reflects a diverse set of priorities within our City,” said Mayor Pitts.
“Every year I begin by commending our City departments and their leaders for their work during what can only be described as a year of challenge and opportunity, and this year is no different. While we have put the disruptive and deadly pandemic behind us, the after-effects of wage and construction inflation, and supply chain disruptions continue to be a threat to the City’s business enterprise.
“I am proud of how our employees in every department responded and worked together. We have much to be proud of among our City employees and how they respond to our citizens’ everyday needs, especially how they perform in a crisis or extreme challenge. They are to be commended for their efforts,” Mayor Pitts said.
With this collective commitment in mind, the City is proposing a 4.5% general wage increase for all eligible employees as a centerpiece of the new budget proposal.
Skilled, efficient Finance Department
The budget document that addresses the City’s most pressing needs while keeping taxes steady, and low, would not be attainable were it not for the work of a skilled City Finance & Revenue Department.
The department is led by Laurie Matta, Chief Financial Officer, and Christen Wilcox, Deputy Chief Financial Officer. “The professionals in that department have implemented a Business Unit concept that assigns one high-level manager in the F&R Department to a grouping of departments," Mayor Pitts explained.
The Unit Manager works closely with the departments they support, becomes familiar with the technical or unique requirements of those departments, and thereby is better able to provide advice and assistance on financial management or budgetary questions as they relate to any department-specific requirements.
“Last year, our City was awarded a bond rating upgrade by top rating agency Fitch Ratings, to 'AA+ With Stable Outlook.' This is a reflection of solid financial management by our Finance Department, in addition to fiscal policies that have served our City well over the years," Mayor Pitts said.
The Finance & Revenue Department was also awarded the Excellence in Finance Award by the Government Municipal Finance Officials organization for the eighth year in a row.
“That shows consistency which is very important in the financial world, and it reflects innovation, with the newly-established Vehicle Replacement Fund paying dividends in City vehicle replacement timing in this era of short supply and long turnaround for new vehicles,” Mayor Pitts said.
Budgeting this year has been particularly challenging. “The demands for services in our growing City strains our ability to keep up, but we are doing just that,” Mayor Pitts said. “The state also adjusted our equalization rate causing a nearly $2.5 million reduction in our payment in lieu of tax collections from our utilities, the largest PILOT customers.”
Importance of Strategic Planning
The City’s budget planning priorities remain largely unchanged from fiscal 2023, and stem from an emphasis on strategic planning in City departments over the past five years.
The emphasis of this planning is on the priorities of improving infrastructure and alleviating traffic issues, enhancing initiatives for youth development, strengthening community and regional partnerships, fostering downtown development and supporting legacy neighborhood restorations, enhancing and reinforcing public safety, expanding and supporting citizen and community engagement, improving operational efficiency and bolstering customer satisfaction, and supporting City workforce well-being and productivity.
Here are a few highlights in the proposed budget:
The City is able to avoid a property tax increase through efficiencies. Funds are being used to pay debt service payments on capital projects, mostly for streets, and $10 million is still reserved in the capital projects fund from the past two years of budgeting. The work on capital projects is slower than anticipated, mostly due to circumstances beyond the City’s control, so the capital projects fund balance is healthy.
The City’s 4.5% general wage increase is to keep pace with the wage inflation weighing heavily on budgets across the nation. The City is also confronted with an unavoidable increase in health insurance premiums for its employees, plus some changes to its health and pharmacy plans. The increase is necessary to keep the City’s self-insured fund alive and viable. It will be the first time a portion of the city’s health insurance rate increases has been passed on to city employees since 2017.
The City is adding new hires primarily in its Police and Fire Rescue departments. There are some other new positions being added to strengthen and enhance the City’s current capabilities or add much-needed capacity in Internal Audit, Building & Facilities Maintenance, Project Management and the Street Department. The new positions in the Street Department are important as the City has identified a cost-saving way to keep construction projects moving forward.
The City’s capital projects budget remains robust this year. The City will continue to progress on the Transportation 2020+ plan Tier 1 projects, but other needs are included as well. They include:
1.) The new Fire Station 6 on land the city purchased this fiscal year on Arrowood Drive in North Clarksville, to replace the outdated location on Ashbury Road
2.) The new Clarksville Police Department District 4 precinct that’s to be part of the City-County Public Safety campus at Outlaw Field
3.) Completion of the first phase of the Exit 8-Rossview Road Athletic Complex utilizing funding that is already in place
4.) New multipurpose sports fields for Edith Pettus and Dixon parks
5.) The City remains committed to the regional recreational complex on property that is large enough to accommodate a wide range of facilities and activities.