By Mark Watson
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watston responded Thursday to a guest column by former City Council member Leonard Abbatiello on budgeting and property taxes.
I have reviewed the comments from Mr. Abbatiello for the paper. There are a couple of clarifications that need to be made in his comments, but generally “matching” our budget cycles with various Tennessee or federal cycles is good. Oak Ridge is the earliest in the state at present time. Hohenwald and Memphis has a collection period beginning July 1. Morristown, Crossville, and Norris have a period beginning Aug. 1. Alcoa, Maryville, Johnson City, Dyersburg, Newbern, and Sardis have a collection period beginning Sept. 1.
Perhaps most importantly (as Mr. Abbatiello knows), June is the month of tax appeals. At present, we have various changes that occur during that month after our June 1 collection period. This causes a number of administrative changes, which do have a cost, so a shift in the calendar would avoid some of this administration, especially during a reappraisal (next one in 2015).
I reviewed changing the calendar during my first year here. Due to the cash flow requirements for payroll and beginning of the fiscal year payments, we could not afford to make the full transition to an October fiscal cycle. We believe we are in position to move one month. Perhaps a future opportunity will allow another shift when reserves and cash flow are built up to allow another shift.
“Buffer and padding” in our budget is incorrect terminology. There are financial requirements of our bonded indebtedness for reserves and financial cash flow needs that obligate our funds. This is a good topic for discussion at our work session on budget. A good indication of our financial condition is the amount available in the General Fund Manager’s Contingency account. This has been reduced in the last three years from $100,000 to $30,000 due to demands for funding by the organization.