CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Joe Pitts began a series of meetings with department heads this week to develop a Fiscal Year 2021 Budget amid the economic and operational challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.
The budget process is unfolding on two tracks. On one, each department is preparing a forward-looking budget, which continues to anticipate the needs of a vibrant, growing City. On the other, Chief Financial Officer Laurie Matta is preparing a “status quo” budget based on projected pandemic-related reductions in revenues.
“I want the departments to prepare as if they were looking at a normal year,” Mayor Pitts said. “This will help us keep our focus on the City’s long-term progress and help sustain our momentum. But realistically, our revenues -- especially sales tax and some state-shared sources -- will be reduced because of COVID-19 business disruptions. So, on a second track, I’ve asked Finance to prepare a status quo budget based on our best estimates of what we’ll actually have on hand to operate. We will present this revised status quo budget to the City Council.”
Matta has estimated the potential gap between department requests and status quo reality will be at least $15 million, so department heads will be working with Mayor Pitts and Finance to reduce projected operating expenses while maintaining programs and services for residents.
Mayor Pitts said the status quo budget will not require employee layoffs. However, no new positions and no employee wage increase will be proposed.
“We will be looking for reductions in operating costs from each department, and we won’t start any new capital projects,” Mayor Pitts said. “We have some money on hand -- from a 2018 bond issue -- to continue several capital projects, such as the new Precinct 3 headquarters for the Police Department, and design and right-of-way for the Northeast Connector project.”
Chief Finance Officer Matta said sales tax revenues flow to the City from the state two months after they are collected, so it’s hard to estimate the impact of the pandemic-related orders that closed or limited many local businesses in March and April.
“We’ll present a budget with a realistic estimate of revenues, but as we start seeing better sales tax results and an improved economic outlook in the next few months we can revise our plan,” Matta said. “Our goal is to retain all our employees, live within our budget reality, and continue to provide strong programs and services.”
Last year, the City Council approved a total budget for Fiscal 2020 of $523 million. This includes expenditures in the General Fund and all enterprise funds, such as CDE Lightband, Clarksville Gas & Water and Clarksville Transit System, and other special revenue funds.
The approved 2020 General Fund, or operating, budget was $103,132,672, which represented an increase in operating expenses of 7 percent over the 2019 General Fund total.
The Mayor’s general spending priorities for 2021 remain the same as last year. They call for services or programs that:
Sustain or improve infrastructure, alleviate traffic issues, or enhance mobility.
Enhance or reinforce public safety.
Improve operational efficiency or effectiveness.
Support and increase citizen and community engagement.
Support youth development.
Strengthen community and regional partnerships.
Boost downtown redevelopment or support "legacy neighborhood” redevelopment.
Mayor Pitts said again this year he will ask the City Council, through its system of standing committees, to review preliminary department budgets in a series of meetings with department leaders.
“This worked well last year, and helps build a collaborative relationship with City Council members on budget matters,” Mayor Pitts said.
Here is the schedule of the Council Committee budget review sessions, which will be held via teleconference from the City Hall 4th Floor Conference Room:
Housing & Community Development, 10 a.m to noon, Monday, May 18.
Transportation Committee, 1-2:30 p.m, Monday, May 18.
Finance Committee, 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, May 19.
Parks & Recreation Committee, 1:30-3 p.m., Tuesday, May 19.
Streets & Garage Committee, 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, May 20.
Gas & Water Committee, 3-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 19.
Public Safety Committee, 2-4 p.m., Wednesday, May 20.
Finance Committee and miscellaneous agencies, 1:30-4:30 p.m., Thursday, May 21.
After those sessions, Mayor Pitts will present his proposed 2021 budget to the City Council, followed by a presentation to the public and media at a news conference at 11 a.m. on June 4.
Then the proposed budget will be analyzed during a City Council budget work session, followed by separate meetings for a public hearing, first reading and a final vote, all expected to be conducted via teleconference from the Council Chambers, according to this schedule:
Council Work Session, 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 15.
Special Session, Public Hearing and First Reading, 4:30 p.m., Thursday, June 18.
Special Session, Second Reading and Final Vote, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 23.
All meetings are open to the public, but attendance is discouraged while the community observes social distancing recommendations designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meetings are accessible via Google Meet, and City Council meetings are available via livestream and online at www.cityofclarksville.com.