Home Elected Officials Board of Commissioners (BOC) Meetings: Budget, Taxes, Fire Fee

Board of Commissioners (BOC) Meetings: Budget, Taxes, Fire Fee

Chris Patterson, left, city attorney, and Jim Atkinson, city manager, at BOC meetings June 1.

Money was the topic du jour at the BOC work session and special meeting tonight (6.1.17) at City Hall.

Adoption of the annual budget for the coming year was on the special meeting agenda.  Since the 2017-18 budget had a $500,000 deficit, Vice Mayor Josh Roman asked about removing $250,000 from the State Street Fund and $250,000 from the general government fund.  He asked City Manager Jim Atkinson if any of the cuts should come out of salaries.  Mr. Atkinson answered no to the question about salaries.

Mr. Roman also asked about a deficit of $2 million for capital projects from the Lakeland School System (LSS). Mayor Wyatt Bunker explained this is not a deficit but would be LSS requesting funds for athletic fields from an existing reserve fund of $2.4 million the City has on hand.

The money would be used to complete football and practice fields behind the soon-to-be finished Lakeland Middle Preparatory School LMPS) on what is land for a future Lakeland high school.

Regarding the $500K  deficit in the new budget, City staff was asked to caucus and find ways to cut expenses. The special meeting was recessed for the conferencing.

After meeting with department heads, Mr. Atkinson suggested cuts of $250,000 in road maintenance expenses and $250,990 in the general fund. The General Fund cuts ranged from $43,000 to hire an additional fulltime person for public works to $1,000 for public works safety supplies.  Mayor Wyatt Bunker was concerned about the safety supplies and suggested the $1,000 be added back to the budget for obvious reasons.

The final reading of the new budget has been deferred to the June 8 regular meeting.

Speaking of athletic complexes, Mayor Bunker talked about a City park proposed for 100 acres at Memphis-Arlington Road and Canada Road.  He expects the City to break ground this year on the new facility and initial funds will come from an estimated $750,000 in state grants, a reserve fund of $430,000 (from builder fees) and selling a City-owned house for $200,000-300,000. The BOC tabled a resolution on pursuing the plan until specific cost estimates are available.  The hold-up on costs seems to revolve around the type of stream that will divert water to create a lake on the property.  See Lakeland Current’s story about the proposed park:


BOC members did approve a certified tax rate for Lakeland of $1.29.  Mayor Bunker said the City had to certify at this rate for a revenue-neutral rate after the property reassessment this year. “But the BOC is setting the rate at $1.25 which is four-cents beyond the certified rate.  We could have kept the rate at $1.40 (the current rate).  But we went beyond the certified rate,” he said.

Fire services and fees were a major discussion by BOC members.    Historically, only counties were able to assess for fire fees.  However, legislation was passed in the last session and Lakeland expects to phase out the fee and bring the fire costs under property tax.  “This will be a substantial reduction in fees to residents,” said Mayor Bunker, “along with the reduction in sewer fees and property taxes (already announced).”

He would like for the City to hire a fire consultant for initial discussions and have recommendations to the BOC in July.  “This is a huge deal, exciting times, something we’ve all worked toward for some time,” said the Mayor.

Commissioner Clark Plunk asked about a time frame.  Mayor Bunker said Shelby County (which currently provides fire services to Lakeland) requires a 12-month notice.  Plus it would likely take 18 months to start a department. It might take up to two years to get the new department going.  “I think we are looking at our own fire department in 18 to 24 months along with a plan to phase out our fire fee.” He said.

Commissioner Matt Wright asked if the fee might be phased out in five years and the Mayor said, “Possibly.”

Vice Mayor Roman suggested that the City Attorney’s law firm, Wiseman Bray, negotiate with the County on getting the fee the City pays (roughly $2.4 million) closer to the cost of the service which is estimated to be $1.6 million.

Asked by Commissioner Plunk if a newly formed fire department  would require a tax increase, the Mayor answered no. A resolution about the fire department and fees will be presented to the BOC next week.

Dr. Ted Horrell, superintendent of LSS, announced the ribbon-cutting and dedication of LMPS is planned for the evening of July 30.

Two resolution approvals are awaiting bids Tuesday (6.6.17):  New Gateway Signs on U.S. Highway 70 and a capital improvement project at Windward Slopes Park.  A plateau area is to be leveled for sports fields.

… photos by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents.

Vice Mayor Josh Roman
Mayor Wyatt Bunker
Commissioner Matt Wright
Commissioner Clark Plunk
Dr. Ted Horrell, LSS superintendent