|Monday's Loudon budget vote fails
Loudon is in limbo after a second reading of the 2017-18 budget failed to gain a majority Monday night.
Councilman Dennis Stewart voted against the final draft of the upcoming budget after warning at a previous meeting that he would do so without changes.
Stewart took issue with an annual contribution of $18,000 to the Loudon Merchants and Property Owners Association. The city has also been making mortgage payments for properties owned by LMPOA.
“I think until they start paying the loan we shouldn’t be giving them an additional contribution,” Stewart said. “I have no problem with giving them a contribution of $18,000. It’s the $10,548 that they’re not paying on the loan that we cosigned.”
The combined contribution and loan payments provide LMPOA with more funding than the city gives the Economic Development Agency, Stewart said.
“It’s a private organization and I don’t think the city of Loudon should be funding it,” he said.
Stewart’s other concern was the cost of the former railroad depot that serves as offices for the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce, Loudon County Visitors Bureau and Loudon County Education Foundation.
“We lease it from (the railroad),” Stewart said. “I just don’t think we should pay $65,000 for a building we don’t own because they could come back tomorrow and say, ‘Hey we’re taking this building,’ then we’re just out $65,000.”
Jeff Harris and Johnny James voted for the budget. Lynn Millsaps abstained.
“I didn’t have any input into the budget process,” Millsaps said. “I didn’t make it to the workshop on the budget so I didn’t feel like I could vote for it or against it. So I abstained.”
Loudon Mayor Jim Greenway, who could have given a majority “yes” vote for the budget, missed the meeting due to traffic associated with Monday’s eclipse. Stewart and Harris both walked to the meeting because of traffic.
Failing to pass the budget forced the city to remove six items from Monday’s agenda, including the second reading of the city’s tax rate.
“The biggest thing now is we can’t set the tax rate,” Harris said. “We can’t send out the tax notices until we get it solved. So that revenue is going to be less if we can’t get that going. So it’s kind of put us at a standstill.”
Also delayed were authorization of the purchase of three new squad cars for Loudon Police Department, three separate items for parks and recreation and an amendment to the play classification plan to provide city employees a 2 percent raise.
If the pay plan is approved when a budget is finally passed, Harris expects the raise will go into effect retroactively.
“That’s just a lot more work for people to have to go back and do all that,” Harris said. “We just need to get the budget passed and start working on it, working with the budget we have.”
Loudon’s budget was already behind schedule, with a continuing budget from 2016-17 still in effect due to the setting of the certified tax rate coming late.
“We’re already late and odd things have happened this year that have probably never happened before that caused us to be behind with the PILOT and the tax rate and those things,” Harris said. “Now we can’t get past that. So this just delays it even more, which is probably the worst thing that can happen.”
In an unrelated matter, council passed the second reading of an ordinance to rezone 931 Mulberry St., from highway commercial district to high density residential.