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Maryville leaders stress preparedness at FY 2022 budget retreat

The city of Maryville isn’t reeling from the economic aftershocks of COVID-19, but leaders are treading lightly and emphasizing preparedness as the fiscal year turns over in just a little more than seven weeks.

Fiscal 2022’s proposed budget totals $218 million for all Maryville funds including schools, leaders announced in their May budget retreat, and things are looking up despite a tumultuous year.

“The budget message last year was filled with a great amount of uncertainty,” City Manager Greg McClain told gathered leaders in a prepared address during the retreat last week. “Last year at this time, the community shut down, so we built our current budget in anticipation of the expected negative impacts.”

But those negative fiscal impacts never hit in a substantial way. Instead, revenues outperformed 2020 by double-digit percentages, according to McClain.

“Our budget did not take the punishment that many counties and cities experienced,” he added, noting the city’s retail and industry ecosystem and lack of reliance on tourism played into that.

That’s allowed Maryville to tackle capital projects and even pay off some debt before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

“Good news,” city Finance Director Mike Swift wrote on the front page of his Friday, May 7, budget retreat presentation. “We survived 2020! What did we learn? Be prepared!”

While Swift went on to discuss a year full of new spending measures including employee raises, new hires, more debt pay-off and new capital projects, he emphasized all the ways COVID-19 affected revenue, good and bad.

For example, preliminary data indicates the assessed amount of taxable personal property has sunk in the course of a year, a negative 29.6% or $50,367,684 change from 2021, according to Swift’s presentation.

Revenue has dropped in a few other categories as well.

But 2022 also may come with its own set of newly emerging fiscal highs.

For instance, the American Rescue Plan Act is sending more than $7.9 million to city coffers in the coming months.

Swift said leaders are still waiting for instruction on how they’ll be allowed to spend it, but it will help regardless.

Caution is still the word of the day, according to Swift. The city is focusing on debt-payment efforts in the coming decades, chipping away at a total $82,333,190 in combined principal and interest payments due between 2022 and 2040.

Staff is recommending about $7.5 million to $7.1 million be transferred to the debt service fund this fiscal year and each year until 2026.

“This year we said we really need to acknowledge that we must be prepared for whatever happens going forward,” Swift told leaders. “We want to plan for the future, and that means strengthening a few fund balances. ... What we need to deal with are risks: Is there going to be a future impact of COVID-19 and, if so, what?”

He added he was concerned about the end of federal unemployment stimulus payments.

“Surely some of it will be positive, you’ll see people going back to work,” he noted. “But there are going to be negative impacts, too.”

Leaders have spoken — though often in passing — about rising concerns of another recession, emphasizing Maryville is still recovering from 2008’s fiscal crisis.

The reason Maryville is stable today, they say, was because of a strong, hardworking staff that ran the city with wisdom, foresight and conservative investment.

“For those of us who were elected officials in 2008 and 2009 when the crash hit, these gentlemen and these ladies took it upon themselves to manage the city’s finances — and the lack of finances we saw at that time — in a very prudent manner,” Councilman Tommy Hunt said as Swift’s financial report came to a close. “They have done a very good job maintaining city services through the pandemic. ... The citizens of Maryville can be very proud of where their tax dollars are going and how they’re spent because I think it’s a very prudent use of public money.”

In his address, McClain noted the city’s current U.S. Census Bureau population estimate of 29,742 will likely grow: He thinks data set to come out soon will show Maryville has “somewhere north” of 30,000 residents.

Maryville school board approves 3.5% raise for next year

Maryville City Schools employees will see a 3.5% raise, in addition to step increases, under the 2021-22 budget the school board passed Monday, May 10.

The Board of Education passed a nearly $58.4 million general operating budget, about $2 million more than the budget for this year.

The raise will make the base pay for a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree $44,670, but MCS rarely hires teachers with no experience. The base pay for a teacher with a master’s degree will be $52,170. Last week, Director Mike Winstead told the Maryville City Council that the district recently ranked first in the state for its starting pay for a master’s degree.

Substitutes will start at $68 a day for those with a high school diploma, $78 for a bachelor’s degree and $93 for a licensed teacher.

The classified employee pay schedule will start at $9.08 for a worker with a high school diploma in the after-school Adventure Club program, and the base for a cafeteria helper will be $10.79 an hour.

Maryville plans to add an American Sign Language teacher at the high school, three new teachers at Foothills Elementary School and four employees for behavior support across the three elementary schools.

During the meeting at Coulter Grove Intermediate School the board also granted tenure to 19 teachers: from John Sevier Elementary, Cynthia White; from Sam Houston Elementary, Mary Grace Taylor; from Coulter Grove Intermediate School, Josephine Cappelletti, Benjamin Hargett, Kelli Hunt, Amanda Morse and Karla West; from Montgomery Ridge Intermediate, Nicholas Payne; from Maryville Junior High, Tamarra Parten, Whitney Schmidt, Cameryn Taylor and Kellie Walker; and from the high school, Robert Cate, Byron Davis, Tyler Jones, Kristy Noda, Morgan Petree, Christopher Sullivan and Daniel Weinand.

“There should be some super tenure just for getting through this past year,” board member Chad Hampton said. During the meeting board members expressed their appreciation for all of the school employees for their work during the pandemic this year.

The school board approved a bid of $1.1 million from Henley Roofing to replace the roof on Maryville Junior High School and fix a long-term leak at Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School by placing sheet metal over brick near the gym. Genesis Roofing submitted a slightly lower but incomplete bid.

The junior high is one of several foam roofs the district plans to replace with membrane materials.

Winstead said the foam is cheaper and lasts eight to 10 years, “but we keep encountering leaks along the way from birds plucking out the foam and creating holes here and holes there.”

Maryville is using some of its federal coronavirus relief funding for the roof project.

In other action the board approved:

• Buying two buses from Central States Bus Sales Inc. for a total of $148,680, replacing two 2004 special education buses with newer and larger models. Winstead said the buses also could be used in the evenings to transport small sports teams.

• A $39,585 bid from Total Demolition to remove the apartment complex at 123 Cunningham St. Maryville’s asbestos contractor is handling abatement at the property. Demolition is expected to begin soon after the school year ends this month.

Winstead said grass will be sown on the property, which the system expects to utilize during future expansion on the high school campus.

• Closing its sick bank for classified employees and opening the Certified Sick Bank to all full-time employees.

When the Classified Sick Bank began in 2002, most of those employees were full-time and 71 participated. Now it is only 32 and the bank can no longer function alone, according to Winstead.