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Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan unveils 2018 City Budget

 

No-tax-increase plan focuses on public safety, roads

City of Clarksville - Clarksville, TNClarksville, TN – Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan presented a proposed 2017-18 budget Wednesday that calls for no property tax increase, but provides for significant investment in public safety, new roadways, a downtown Performing Arts and Conference Center, a family Athletic Complex and land for a new Urban Wilderness park in the heart of the city.

“I’m proposing a No-Tax-Increase budget, with the property tax rate remaining $1.24 per $100 of assessed property value,” Mayor McMillan said in her annual budget speech to the community. “This is the same rate City property owners paid this year.”

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan

The Mayor reaffirmed her support for two big projects she has been advocating for several years — the family Athletic Complex and the downtown Performing Arts and Conference Center.

“Yes, I’m being stubborn on these two key projects, but it’s because I’m convinced they are necessary and supported by a broad number of Clarksville’s citizens,” Mayor McMillan said. “Sometimes you have to take a stand and fight for what you know is best.”

The city’s consultants say the arts and conference center will result in adding some 200 events a year downtown, in the form of theatrical performances, music concerts, family entertainment events, and conferences and meetings.

“This is exactly the kind of stimulus downtown needs, and will revitalize and inspire economic activity at restaurants, retail shops and nightclubs that will revive downtown,” McMillan said.

The budget requests $1.5 million dollars and authorization to begin negotiations to purchase the Roxy Regional Theatre building and the building adjacent to the city-owned lot on Franklin Street to keep the project moving forward.

Mayor McMillan also announced a new twist on her plan to build a family Athletic Complex on about 350 acres near Exit 8.

She said National Sports Services, a Denver company involved in minor league baseball and soccer  teams and sports facility development,  has formally signaled its interest in working with the City of Clarksville to bring a professional minor league baseball or soccer team, or perhaps both, to the Athletic Complex.

“I have included $6.5 million dollars in Capital Project funding to purchase land and continue the work on the Athletic Complex I have proposed near Exit 8,” McMillan said. “I know the Athletic Complex is a project that Clarksville needs and, from what I hear from the vast number of families with children who play youth sports, this is a project that many Clarksville residents want.”

McMillan had included similar amounts on both projects money in previous year’s budgets, but it was reduced by the City Council.

“I hope that is not the case this year,” she said Wednesday.

This budget also contains two completely new proposals — acquisition of a unique tract of land in the heart of Clarksville to develop into an Urban Wilderness Park and development of performance amphitheater in Liberty Park.

The Urban Wilderness would be on rugged, mostly privately owned land that lies between Madison Street and the Red River off of Tanglewood Drive. It includes dense vegetation, steep ravines, primitive trails, and a stream with a waterfall.

The City envisions connecting the natural area to its system of Greenways and Blueways, and creating a recreational initiative similar to the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, which incorporates acreage south of that city’s downtown waterfront.

McMillan has budgeted $450,000 in Capital Projects funding to purchase land and get started on design of the Urban Wilderness.

She also has included $100,000 in this budget to begin design of a performance amphitheater in Liberty Park with a permanent stage and lawn seating for 5,000 suitable for big-time concerts and other events.

The space would be designed for rental to concert and event promoters, and would provide a stream of income to help maintain other Parks and Recreation Department assets and programming.

Here are other key points of the 2017-18 budget plan.

Public Safety

The budget adds three new police positions in the traffic division, including another crash investigator. The budget calls for spending $539,000 to add 17 new police vehicles. This includes 16 sedans to replace worn-out high-mileage police cruisers and unmarked cars, and one SUV for the traffic investigator. And we will add new body armor and safety helmets for officers.

In addition, the City has applied for a major federal grant to provide more than $350,000 to begin equipping officers with body cameras, to add another layer of transparency to protect officers and citizens.

For Clarksville Fire Rescue, the Mayor has budgeted $600,000 to replace two fire trucks that are old and worn out.

Street Projects

The 2018 budget would spend $300,000 on continuing design of the Northeast Connector, a new City roadway from Trenton Road to Wilma Rudolph Boulevard to take pressure off roads in that fast-growing part of the City.

McMillan is also requesting $400,000 for design costs for a project known as the Professional Park Improvement, which would connect Rossview Road near Exit 8 to the Mall area and hospital with a new road running parallel to I-24.

The budget proposes totally funding a project at the intersection of International Boulevard and Dunlop Lane, with right of way, turn lanes and signalization. This improvement is needed to handle the rise of traffic associated with the new Hankook Tire plant nearby.

The plan budgets $630,00 to install a traffic signal, curbs and gutters, and sidewalks, along with grade improvements, at the intersection of Edmondson Ferry Road and Highway 41-A Bypass. These are safety improvements that are clearly needed, and deeply supported by residents of nearby neighborhoods.

Parks and Recreation

The big theme for Parks and Recreation Department for 2017-18 is continuing to upgrade and improve existing parks and facilities, while keeping an intense focus on creative recreational programs and events.

The budget calls for spending more than $100,000 for major improvements to the audio and visual systems and sound quality at Wilma Rudolph Events Center and Freedom Point. These two facilities are heavily used for events and meetings, and the original audio/visual systems are inadequate and must be upgraded to support the needs of the groups who rent the buildings.

Some other key Parks and Recreation improvement projects in this budget include:

  • $175,000 to upgrade lighting at Stokes ballfields.
  • Adding more than 150 parking spaces to Liberty Park.
  • $35,670 for a Beachaven Pool drain replacement.
  • $30,000 to upgrade the playground at Bel-Aire Park.
  • $25,000 to upgrade restrooms at Swan Lake Park.

Wages

The budget also calls for 1.5 percent  general wage increase for  City employees.

“The main reason I am proposing this increase is simple. Our City employees deserve it,” Mayor McMillan said. “Meeting our goals and providing necessary services requires maintaining a well-trained and devoted team of employees. It is the right thing to do to stay competitive in the market so that we can retain the very best employees.”

McMillan said increased revenues were helping to fund an aggressive list of projects.

Sales and property tax collections were better than expected this year, and the City’s tax base grew by about 2.5 percent, McMillan said. State-shared revenues and the Hall Income Tax proceeds, plus  the revenue received from CDE for payments in lieu of taxes were  more than anticipated.

“Also, the City of Clarksville is in very good financial shape, thanks to our sound financial management practices,” McMillan said. “Clarksville’s bond rating continues to remain very high, at AA+ outlook stable. We also continue to meet our legal obligation to maintain our fund balance of 20 percent.”

In the broadest analysis, the total proposed budget for the City of Clarksville for Fiscal 2018 is nearly half a billion dollars and the major departments budget totals $385,832,402. That includes some of the Enterprise Funds — such as CDE Lightband, Clarksville Gas & Water, and Clarksville Transit System — and the General Fund.

The total proposed General Fund budget, the section of the budget that is partially funded with property taxes and sales taxes and referred to as the City’s operating budget, is $93,938,900.

“City Government is providing taxpayers with high-value municipal services,” McMillan said. “When you think about it, this is exactly why citizens joined together more than 200 years ago to form the City to provide for the extra amenities they wanted — things like better police and fire protection, public utilities, parks and recreation programming and better streets — that only a City could provide them.”


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