Morristown’s Budget Blues

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Morristown, Hamblen County (WVLT) - The City of Morristown faces a financial crunch. The city's more than a million dollars in the red and taxpayers may end up paying to fix it.

A million dollars isn't chump change. So city financial staffers are giving the council suggestions including revenue producing and cost cutting.

The City of Morristown is facing a million dollar shortfall and members of the council were notified of the grim news this week.

"Startled, because the 12 years that I've been there I haven't had to confront that,” says Councilman Claude Jinks.

City financial staffers say they're experiencing a 28 percent increase in healthcare premiums, but also a huge shortfall in sales tax revenue.

Staffers say large retailers like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s are opening in nearby towns.

"A lot of our business in sales tax comes from surrounding counties. I understand that them opening other outlets that people stayed home and bought instead of drove to Morristown,” says Jinks.

So financial staffers are presenting ideas to the council.

To raise a million dollars, they will consider either a property tax increase, initiate a garbage fee, storm water fees, or have a referendum on a quarter cent sales tax, any of which would bring in the money needed.

But the council can also consider cutting departments by ten percent.

For councilman Claude Jinks, he sees the quarter percent as a viable option above items like property taxes. "Just the people that owns property pays it and to me that's not spread on the board fairly."

Councilman Jinks says he hopes they won't just do a quick fix because they've got future years to worry about.

Finding a compromise may not be easy. Councilman Rick Trent says he's leaning toward cutting costs, Councilman Melvin Tucker is against that, and Councilman Frank McGuffin says he's leaning toward a mixture of cost cuts and increased revenue measures.

The council meets Tuesday night and the budget will be a part of that discussion.

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