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$174 million city budget passes on final reading

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Germantown’s Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the city’s $174 million budget Monday night on third and final reading during a near three-hour meeting that was at times inharmonious.

Aldermen John Barzizza and Dean Massey ultimately voted “no” on the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Massey claimed that the city’s budget included “unreliable estimates” and accused the administration of withholding information.

He also questioned if the administration was “placing the interests of developers over existing Germantown families.”

“The public has concerns that our city commissions and BMA are being used as a vehicle through which developers and City Hall propagandize the public to support pet projects and excuse passing on unnecessary tax and fee increases to citizens,” he said.

Alderman Rocky Janda argued against Massey’s claims.

“I’m not sure where the alderman to my right is from and who he is an alderman for,” he noted, “but I have totally different people communicating with me than he does.”

Massey made four motions to amend the budget, two of which failed to receive a second.

Barzizza seconded motions to remove $243,000 in funding for a water tower in the Forest Hill Heights development and to reallocate $500,000 from phase two of the Central Business District Streetscape Master Plan to the Houston High School field house project.

These motions failed 3-2.

Massey also made a motion to eliminate $2 million that was budgeted for upgrades to the sewer system for Smart Growth in the city’s Western Gateway.

“It’s a constant political agenda at these meetings,” Janda said. “We’re the legislative branch and we’re supposed to make these decisions. Thank God it is majority rules in this case.”

The city’s general fund budget totals $54.7 million.

“It provides for public investments in education, public safety, infrastructure and quality development,” City Administrator Patrick Lawton said. “Germantown remains in excellent financial health as evident by our AAA bond rating and strong financial reserves and is experiencing significant investment as a result of the improving economy.”

The general fund budget includes $6.9 million for the Germantown Municipal School District.

Board members also approved the reduction of the property tax rate from $1.97 per $100 assessed value to $1.95.

“I love Germantown,” Massey said. “Sometimes that means opposing bad government decisions. The budget was not produced in the best interest of the vast majority of Germantown residents.”

Earlier this month, Financial Advisory Commission Chairman Julius Moody said the 23-member group has met five times this year to review the budget.

“We are very fortunate to have our city finances in the hands of such a capable staff,” he said.

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