County budget takes center stage at monthly roundtable meeting
By Carole Robinson, Senior Writer
Local state lawmakers got a break Monday morning when the Legislative Round Table, sponsored by the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Dave Crouch, invited the chairmen of the County Commission budget and education committees to answer questions and summarize the budget.
Just a couple of weeks before the full commission votes on an almost $422 million budget and no tax increase – more than 10 times the county’s 1987 budget of $40 million – Budget Chairman Ernie Williams, Education Chairman Doug Langston and County Mayor Rogers Anderson discussed the county’s finances for the coming fiscal year. More than 61 percent of the budget, or $260 million, is for schools.
After a five-year hiring freeze, “[the county] added 48 new people – 32 were SROs,” Williams said. “After [the Sandy Hook shooting] we made a decision to put officers in every classroom in the county, including FSSD and it’s important they are under one jurisdiction.”
With a projected 1,000 new students enrolling in Williamson County Schools in August, new schools are on the horizon, Anderson said.
However, no new schools will be built this year.
“There’s got to be a new high school built in the Nolensville community in conjunction with a K-8 school, which may be subject to change,” Anderson said. “But I think the collective reasoning is a K-8 school in that area.”
In the fall, county officials will “go to market” – the bond market – to borrow money and get started on the high school next year.
The school system is also on the hunt for land for another elementary school in the Spring Hill area.
Other construction projects include a public safety building to be located behind the new highway department facility on Beasley Drive, the relocation of the Williamson County Rescue Squad from Main Street to Downs Boulevard and an emergency rescue facility in Thompson’s Station to service SR 840.
According to Anderson, although 840 is a state route, the county bears the responsibility of emergency services and safety patrols. Since the new section opened last fall, 840 has become popular for both locals to get from Fairview to I-65 and truckers to get around Nashville resulting in an increase in accidents, and according to sheriff department reports, also for those carrying illegal substances. The sheriff assigned three officers to patrol the road increasing the public safety lines of the budget to $16 million.
The solid waste budget, which includes community convenience centers, totals about $5 million and to service the county’s approximately 700 miles of roads – only 10 are not paved, the highway department needs $11 million.
The county’s $11.4 million general fund includes $700,000 to administer the county commission, $692,000 for the mayor’s office, $256,000 for human resource, $655,000 for three county attorneys, $899,000 for the election commission, $591,000 for the register of deeds, and $2.5 million for community development. Williamson Medical Center oversees the countywide ambulance service, but the county pays $1.9 million for 60 people and equipment to man ambulance stations throughout the county 24/7.
Parks and Recreation budget totaled $12 million and the library and senior centers budget $2 million. General and rural debt payments of $53 million in interest and principle accounts for 14 percent of the county budget.
Within the school system’s budget, almost half – $125 million – is under the salary line, $28.7 million for special education, $5.6 million for vocational education and $14.6 million for maintenance and operations of buildings.
Anderson said Williamson County is only one of two counties in Tennessee with a AAA bond rating.
“You want to have the best bond rating when you go to borrow,” he said.
The July 29 Legislative Roundable will host TDOT Commissioner and former Franklin mayor, John Schroer, who will discuss the role of TDOT in Williamson County and state road plans. The program begins at 7:15 a.m. in the auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex on West Main Street and the public is encouraged to attend.
Posted on: 6/27/2013