The proposed budget

Middlesboro Mayor Bill Kelley presented his proposed budget to the city council during a special-called meeting. The council held the first reading on Monday. The budget contains limited changes.

According to Kelley, the city is in a good position.

“I have carefully examined our financial status, and I believe we are still in a good position,” said Kelley in his budget message. “Our other revenues are remaining steady, and we have maintained a very good collection rate. This is important because focusing on strict enforcement of collection procedures ensures that no taxpayer is forced to pay more than his or her fair share.”

The mayor said occupational tax receipts have increased over the last two years. He reported last year over 300 new jobs had been created in the city, and he believes they have retained those jobs.

Despite feeling good about the city’s financial situation, Kelley still remains cautiously optimistic.

“While I am happy to report that we have operated without cuts for almost five years and haven’t touched our savings, I can see that tougher days are ahead,” said Kelley. “Our income growth is being outpaced by our expense growth.”

Kelley said he will not propose any increase in taxes or further increases in fees he cannot completely and clearly justify a need for. He said he recently asked the council to approve a new trash collection contract to include an increase in the monthly fee.

“Sanitation has operated at or near deficit status for many years, and we simply could not wait any longer,” said Kelley.

Kelley also said he would not allow the city to reduce services, cut employees or go needlessly into debt without having a full and open discussion well in advance of a critical financial situation.

“It is my hope that the city council and any concerned citizen will help the administration make the difficult decision that lay ahead,” said Kelley. “I plan to pursue any and all opportunities and maintain contact with Frankfort and Washington with the hope of bringing further growth to our area while also offering support to our existing employers.”

The budget contains appropriations for normal, day-to-day activities. These include regular salaries and benefits for employees, utilities and building expenses, fuel, insurance and similar routine expenditures.

“This is the fifth budget proposal I have submitted since taking office and, once again, there is no proposed tax increase for the coming year,” said Kelley.

The 2015-2016 budget’s regular spending is supplemented by appropriations for vehicles in the police, ambulance, street and sewer departments. This year the budget includes new funding appropriated for the building condemnation and removal program, continued support and funding of downtown revitalization programs, and full funding of the Main Street Director’s position.

“I propose the continued support of Discover Downtown Middlesboro,” said Kelley. “The budget funds another year of the Main Street Director salary along with coal severance funding for Discover Downtown Middlesboro. We will continue to work with this organization in their efforts to revitalize our downtown area.”

The budget fully funds the health insurance program and continues participation in the state retirement system, including hazardous duty retirement for qualifying employees. The mayor states it also contains funding for the transitional “longevity” pay increase for all full-time city employees.

“The city employees, from department heads down, have all worked hard to keep our services at a high level while holding costs to a minimum,” said Kelley. “I am proud of the work they produce, sometimes under very challenging circumstances.”

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN

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