Council to vote on budgets

Xavier Smith • May 15, 2017 at 9:19 PM

The Lebanon City Council will take its first action regarding the budgets for the 2017-2018 and 2019-2019 fiscal years during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The council began its budget talks in March after Mayor Bernie Ash presented two balanced budgets that did not include any new taxes. He said the budget would show focus on important staffing needs relative to growth in the budget, including staffing a new Lebanon Fire hall on State Route 109 and new police officers.

“I have met the funding challenges in these budgets with some fees that are the result of unfunded federal mandates and some fees associated with the building growth, which is necessitating the increase of fire, police and sanitation workers with equipment, while being able to provide some relief to our citizens on their property taxes,” Ash said in March.

Ash also highlighted his 2017-2018 budget included a 3-cent property tax decrease for residents, which would cut about $300,000 from the city’s budget.

Ash said the city could make up the reduction through different measures, which included establishing impact fees of $900 for new single-family residential units and $1,000 for multi-family residential units, among other fees.

The council agreed to nix the property tax decrease from consideration during the budgeting process.

Councilor Chris Crowell said he didn’t favor the idea of relying on a non-reliable funding source when growth could and would stop in the county eventually.

“In 2009, there were multiple months where there were zero building permits issued. How much revenue do you get by multiplying by zero? Zero. We’re talking about going from a reliable source of income to a less reliable source,” Crowell said last month.

The council also agreed to staff the new Lebanon Fire Hall with full-time staff, a move that departed from its previous agreement of having nine full-time and six part-time staffers.

“You’re talking about basically $300,000 to move those six from part-time to full-time,” Lebanon Finance Commissioner Robert Springer said.

Cesternino led the push to add three additional police officers to the seven already budgeted for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The council will also discuss a zoning request by Cumberland University.

The rezoning request from university would rezone about 4.95 acres of property near the school to university campus. The university currently uses the properties near the main campus.

The properties include 233 and unaddressed University Avenue; unaddressed property on South Tarver Avenue; 311 and 315 W. Spring St.; 310 McClain Ave.; 235 Cumberland Drive, 250 and 319 S. Greenwood St., 346 S. Maple St., unaddressed Pennsylvania Avenue; 203 S. Greenwood St.; and 516 W. Spring St.

Some residents have voiced opposition to the rezoning request after talks surfaced surrounding a parking lot occupying one of the lots in the future.

Joe Gray, Cumberland University vice president for information technology, campus services and security, said the university scratched the idea of a parking lot in one of the lots and started work on placing the parking lot on the main campus.

Neighborhood resident Tracey Parks said although he sees the logic behind the rezoning request, he believed it doesn’t meet qualifications for approval since it doesn’t match the future land use plan in his opinion.

“When you get beyond [adjoining properties], I see this as sort of illegal spot zoning because it is for the primary benefit of a single owner. It seems to be, to me, that there’s an inconsistency in future land use plan,” Parks said. 

Permitted uses under university campus zoning include one- and two-family dwellings; dormitories; fraternity and sorority houses; administrative buildings; commercial food and beverage; general retail trade and other things.

Parks said he believed the permitted uses go beyond the characteristics of the neighborhood, which he said is taken into account when dealing with future land use plans. 

Gray said the move would unite all Cumberland University satellite properties under the same zoning.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. A public hearing will precede the meeting at 5:55 p.m.

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