Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts and the City Council are apparently ready to revisit some key spending items after passing a status quo city budget earlier this year in the midst of fiscal uncertainties related to COVID-19.

City Hall announced through a news release Tuesday afternoon that, standing committees have been meeting with department heads this week to review a revised fiscal year 2021 budget that “reflects the ongoing needs of a vibrant, growing city and the economic and operational reality created by the continuing COVID-19 public health emergency.”

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Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts is introducing a revised city budget to the City Council this week, with fiscal uncertainties from COVID-19 waning. (Photo: Henry Taylor/The Leaf-Chronicle)

In June, officials noted, the City Council approved a status quo budget designed to keep the city functioning based on projected pandemic-related reductions in revenues. At the time, Pitts and Chief Financial Officer Laurie Matta outlined a strategy to return to the budget in September and October and make revisions based on a clearer picture of ongoing needs and actual revenues.

“This strategy allows the departments to take a second look and plan as if we were dealing with a more normal year,” Pitts said. “This two-stage budget process helps keep our focus on the city’s long-term progress and allows us to sustain our momentum, outside of dealing with pandemic-related issues.”

Initially, the city projected that some revenues — especially sales tax and some state-shared sources — would be reduced because of COVID-19 business disruptions. Now, actual results from the first three months of the fiscal year give city leaders a clearer picture of exactly how the year is unfolding, including milder-than-expected pandemic-related impacts on revenues, said the news release.

The revised budget amendment will be introduced Oct. 1 at a special called City Council meeting, and it will be considered on second reading at a second called meeting on Monday, Oct. 5.

Both meetings will be at 4:30 p.m. All council meetings are open to the public, but attendance is discouraged while the community observes social distancing recommendations designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Meetings are accessible via Google Meet, and City Council meetings are available via Facebook Live and livestream and online at 

“During the past few months the trends have been favorable enough to give us the confidence and flexibility to offer this amended budget document for your consideration,” Pitts wrote to the council in a memo accompanying his revised budget.

“As always, I am grateful for the excellent work by our department heads in holding the line in their expenses and supporting the status quo budget passed in June 2020, and also working to present a revised budget that reflects and represents the priorities we have as a city. I am especially grateful for the work of Laurie Matta, our chief financial officer, and the Finance and Revenue Department for their work in creating this balanced budget and helping us get back on track.”

Pitts summarized the highlights of the revised budget in his memo. They are:

► Adding 20 new police officers, nine of whom will be hired this fall and are funded by a federal grant.  The other 11 will be hired in May 2021. The additional officers will bring Clarksville Police to a ratio of 2.1 officers per 1,000 residents, just short of the national standard.

► Adding 16 new firefighters to Clarksville Fire Rescue. Fifteen of the positions will be entirely funded by a federal grant. Officials say the new positions are needed to meet national standards to adequately staff all fire stations and provide for the growth in population, homes and businesses across the community.

Meeting the standards are important to maintaining and improving the community’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of the fire department, which influences insurance rates for residents and businesses. The ISO ratings calculate how well-equipped fire departments are to put out fires in that community. 

► Adding five grounds and maintenance positions to address current needs in the Parks & Recreation Department.

► Adding money to improve salaries for police officers and Fire Rescue personnel based on the results of a public safety pay study. These raises are proposed to take effect in April 2021 and are designed to stem the tide of attrition in both departments.

► Providing a 3% general wage increase for all employees, except public safety employees, effective Jan. 1, 2021. 

Big projects

Capital projects in the revised budget include:

► Phase 1 development of the Family Recreation Complex on Rossview Road near Exit 8. This phase will build multi-purpose fields and an inclusive playground for special-needs children.

The 300 acres for this complex were acquired by the city council under the administration of former mayor Kim McMillan and now await design and development.

► Moving forward with the project to improve Whitfield and Needmore roads near Glenellen Elementary School.

Last year, the City Council originally approved a 2020 General Fund, or operating, budget of $103,333,812, which represented an increase in operating expenses of 11.8% over the 2019 General Fund total.

During the uncertainty of the financial impact of the pandemic, the City Council approved a revised 2020 General Fund Budget of $101,070,196. The actual 2020 General Fund finished the year at $98,719,800 in expenditures, with a projected ending fund balance of $26,438,321.

In June, the City Council approved the “status quo” 2021 General Fund, or operating, budget of $96,810,913, with a projected ending fund balance of $24,193,585, which was left high as a hedge against the feared downturn in revenues.

The proposed revised 2021 General Fund budget being considered calls for expenditures of $112,461,444. Significant new revenues and expenditures in the revised budget come from $5,841,737 in anticipated federal, state, FEMA and COVID-19 related grants. The proposed revised budget also envisions a lower, more realistic projected ending fund balance of $22,874,672.

Fiscal Year 2021 began on July 1 , 2020, and will end on June 30, 2021. The revised budget will take effect when approved on second reading by the City Council, scheduled for Oct. 6. The proposed revised budget document can be viewed online here . 

Pitts’ 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.

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