City to budget for virus issues

Monday, April 6, 2020

Most households have, or should have, a rainy day fund set aside for emergencies, especially now that the coronavirus pandemic is at their front door. The City of Shelbyville has its own plans to set aside certain budget dollars to cover unplanned expenses resulting from COVID-19.

Councilors discussed Tuesday night how it would likely be advantageous to set aside necessary city funds especially if the pandemic were to hit Bedford County hard. By Sunday there were eight confirmed cases.

The monthly study session was live streamed on Facebook in conjunction with Gov. Bill Lee’s recent orders for public gatherings.

Present for the meeting were council members Mark Clanton, Henry Feldhaus, Marilyn Ewing, Ricky Overcast, Shelbyville City Manager Shanna Boyette, Mayor Wallace Cartwright and recorder Lisa Smith. Treasurer Kay Parker and councilman William Christie communicated via phone. Jean Pruitt was absent.

City attorney Ginger Shofner was in the courtroom, along with Shelbyville police officers.

Funding talk

Isolated funds as discussed would help departments, Boyette said, purchase necessary supplies and could potentially pay for city employee overtime, should it become necessary in the future.

Based on the latest audit and financial report presented from Patrick Lile of Winnett Associates, the city is in good financial condition, as of June 30, 2019. City coffers contained what he deemed the strongest fund balance in a while at $1.9 million. He explained Tuesday how revenues were up and city expenses down.

Debt summary, as reported by Lile, began last year at $2.9 million with the city paying off $683,000 of that debt. That brought the audited debt total to $2.2 million.

Lile also explained how the city’s receipt of several federal and state grants have assisted the municipality in achieving its more positive financial status for last year-end.

“Overspending the budget is not an issue this year,” the local he said.

That news couldn’t have fallen on more apprehensive ears, especially when it came to Council discussing proposals to amend various city funds for the fiscal year 2019-2020. This will be placed on Thursday night’s business meeting agenda for approval.

Families First

Council also gave its full support for administration to authorize use of any Families First funds, should it become necessary that city employees have to take medical leave due to the coronavirus. She advised her office is still researching the Families First Act, which has been approved federally for reimbursements for potential employee sick leave.

Council further discussed giving full support in doing what’s necessary financially and administratively necessary to comply with the governor’s orders.

“Of course we all know everyday is a new day,” Boyette said. “There are a lot of moving parts . . . information that changes rapidly.”

She assured Council that city hall is keeping in direct communication with county emergency management staff and Bedford County Health Department.

“We’re trying to coordinate with everyone, so that we’re all sharing the same information so we can make the best decisions for our entire community.”

She added that some city operations, while still functional, have been modified in the best interest of employees and the public health. That would include temporarily closing walkin offices with more public traffic, such as public works and parks and recreation.

“We’re also in communication with the governor’s office as well, just listening to information available to local communities.”

Closings

The mayor asked Boyette whether “non essential businesses” have been notified they’re to be closed to the public. That especially includes gyms, bars and dine-in restaurants.

Boyette said any local businesses not listed in the governor’s order as “essential,” should remain closed until further notice.

“What our law enforcement is doing, is looking at that order, and previous order, and notifying businesses, if they see them in operation-while on duty. They will present a copy of the order just to make the business owner aware.”

The city manager informed Council that the police department had several questions Tuesday about the governor’s newest order. (The governor released another updated one Thursday.)

“I would encourage everyone to do their part,” Boyette said. “It’s going to take every single person in this community, committed to leading by example, so that we make the best decisions for our community to keep Shelbyville safe. It’s very uncharted territory. But we can do this. We can do this together. Hopefully our results and our efforts will be seen with low test data.”

The city manager said she is in high anticipation of opportunities for federal or state reimbursement for any additional expenses the city incurs in relation to the pandemic.

Council member Henry Feldhaus commented, “We’re making adjustments for COVID-19 . . . did the federal government pass anything to help local municipalities with relevant expenses?”

City attorney Shofner advised that local governments have not received any funding stimulus through state or federal emergency management in light of the pandemic as of Tuesday.

Boyette said in response, “I guess my thought process goes to if there was any opportunity later assigned through FEMA or TEMA funding [normally received through reimbursements] we have to isolate and be able to prove expenditures. I’m just sort of pre-planning in the hopes that if we get any reimbursement opportunities, we can readily have that information available.”

Looking ahead

Councilman Feldhaus, a former Shelbyville mayor, suggested with sales tax revenues expected to decrease this spring and municipalities potentially having additional expenses relating to the coronavirus, there will be some state and or federal assistance approved soon.

He complimented Parker and Boyette for proactively moving necessary funds within the general budget to off-set potential extra expenses relating to the coronavirus. He said estimating future expenses will at best keep the city from being marked with “findings” from auditors. This occurs when there are budget overages at the end of the year.

“That’s the juggle we’re in — for those who are listening,” said Feldhaus. “We are being proactive.”

While the meeting did not include any comments from citizens within the city court room, there were some online ones scrolling online as the hour long meeting was in session.

One post stated: “Would love to see the City take action for folks left suddenly unemployed. Many other surrounding cities like Murfreesboro have placed holds on utility shut-offs and evictions. Shelbyville should help its citizens during this pandemic. I understand that landlords and utility companies also need to make money, but we have to have this grace period or the economy overall will suffer.”

Several posts commented, “Can’t hear a word they’re saying.”

Another stated, “We need the City to help with voicing to utility companies and landlords to work with people during this time. People are being laid off over the last few weeks and it will more than likely get worse before this is over. I am hearing about a landlord who is going to have evictions filed so as soon as the courts open; they will be evicted. This is something that the tenant has no control over. If we could at least hear the City pleading with companies and landlords . . . would help out immensely!”

The City did not include on this month’s agenda any discussions on helping the locally unemployed or citizens in regard to utility needs. City officials did not comment online to posts.