Time for Town leaders to prioritize for fiscal year 2022
It’s that time of year when the Town of Farragut begins the budget process to prepare for the upcoming fiscal year. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen meet early in the process to discuss the wants and needs of the Town and the required funding to address them. As most would expect, our list of wants and needs always out-matches the funds available, requiring us to prioritize our list.
As many residents know, the Town was founded in 1980 without adopting a municipal property tax. Our revenue is approximately $12 million a year, about 65 percent of which is business-generated. Our annual operating budget is about $7.5 million; the remaining revenue is utilized for capital improvement projects.
We will lose $1 million annually when the Hall Income Tax gets phased out, and we lost approximately $600,000-to-$800,000 annually when the state legislature and (then) Gov. (Bill) Haslam passed the IMPROVE Act.
The Town of Farragut has no debt; we pay as we go. We improve roads and undertake more expensive capital projects when we have saved enough money to pay for them. Road projects, park projects, street paving, stormwater infrastructure repair are all costly projects. In addition, we manage and maintain 138 acres of parks, 80 miles of sidewalks, approximately 25 miles of greenway trails, 140 miles of road and $20 million in insured assets.
We still need to determine a use for the Campbell Station Inn and renovate it and finish out McFee Park. We’re still working through the programming for our Community Center. In addition, our Town matured in the late ’80s to early ’90s, and the bill for paving/maintenance of the roads in the subdivisions built during that time is beginning to come due.
Additionally, the Federal Government has mandated that we develop and fund a program to bring our buildings, parks and pedestrian assets into ADA compliance. We also must continue to upgrade our transportation infrastructure to deal with increased traffic, and identify and construct connections in our pedestrian/greenway system.
Funding a Town of our size with the infrastructure and assets we manage and maintain with revenue that is primarily business-generated is a precarious way to fund ourselves. We maintain a very healthy reserve fund to withstand an economic downturn or emergency. The Town continues to thrive without a municipal property tax because we have managed our budget extremely conservatively.
Some of the things we would like to have in our Town are out of our reach, fiscally speaking, and would require the implementation of a municipal property tax to fund. For example, there has been a lot of discussion over the years that the Town of Farragut needs its own police department. Because that would require infrastructure, vehicles and personnel, we don’t have the funds to establish and support a police department.
Additionally, there has been a lot of talk recently about the desire to have an indoor aquatic center. We have many swimmers in Farragut and it would be nice to have a facility close by, but we do not have the funds to purchase property and build and maintain an aquatics center. Further, maintaining and repairing an aging pool facility is costly.
Over the years, the Town of Farragut has been able to grow and continue to provide an enviable quality of life through careful, thoughtful planning and budgeting. Moreover, we continue to thrive without a municipal property tax.
If the citizens desire more than what we can afford with our current funding resources, a referendum that demonstrates that the majority of citizens support a municipal property tax would be necessary.