Jackson City Council members met Thursday morning to workshop the long-term goals for Jackson’s budget and discuss the difficulties of the past few years in terms of planning.
“One normal year would be nice,” Jackson City Mayor Scott Conger said. “What we had to do the past two-and-a-half years was just pivot. How do we react to things (like COVID-19) that come our way that we hadn’t been expecting?”
Councilmembers, led by Eric Spencer, Finance and Accounting Consultant for University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service, brainstormed long-term goals for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as the current calendar year.
“Through our budget process we want to try to get the council more informed, more involved—the strategy session is for the goal-setting of our long-term plan for our budget,” Conger explained. “We want to see how we can start planning through the budget long term, (not short term).”
Project suggestions focused around accessibility and infrastructure, including increasing pedestrian access around the city, better public transportation, improved firefighter gear, storm water infrastructure concerns, and the ongoing housing study to address the city’s growing housing crisis.
While these projects are nothing new to city councilmembers or astute readers, Conger noted that these investments in infrastructure and housing would be crucial if the city wanted to be prepared for the influx of workers ahead of Blue Oval City.
“We need to have fundamental preparation for that population growth (for) what Jackson is going to look like in the next five-to-10 years,” he said. “Because if we don’t start preparing now for it, it’s going to hit us and we’re not going to be able to react.”
The council also easily agreed to some major concerns, like having a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year and finishing previously started city projects.
Conger says that this process is part of “figuring out what recovery looks like.”
“The fiscal year 2020 budget, which started in 2019 when we took over—it was not a budget that we passed or had any part in,” he explained. “(We were) getting a handle on that, and then we had COVID-19 in the middle of that year, so we had to plan for that. We had to plan for the lost revenue, the expenses, the furloughs, the layoffs, the pay-cuts….everything.
“So then what does recovery look like? What does extended COVID-19 look like? There’s been so many unknowns in the past few years that we’ve really had to react to those external factors. So being able to have a plan and stick with it, and not having to do the absolute pivot of just throwing everything out the window and survive, that (is what we want).”
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This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Jackson city budget workshop addresses hopes, needs for the future