Jellico city leaders make progress in budget shortfall talks

JELLICO, Tn. (WYMT/WVLT) - The City of Jellico normally spends $10,400 on payroll each week, but on Monday, none of the city's 21 employees were paid.

Mayor Les Stiers said it was just a bookkeeping mistake.

"A $16,000 check was issued to BlueCross BlueShield for an insurance payment for our employees, and the check should have been held and we would have made payroll Monday," said Stiers.

But many wonder why there isn't more money in the city's account.

"It's just questionable -why are they broke?" said David Bolton, who lives in Jellico.

Stiers said times are tough and the city doesn't have a rainy day fund. Plus, finances are always low before property taxes are collected.

"The receipts just went out to our people on October 1, so city taxes are now due and people will start coming in and paying their taxes," said Stiers.

He said the city's beer and business sales taxes are also down. All of that is a big surprise to city councilman Alvin Evans.

"We were told every month for the past couple of meetings that everything was fine. And you know, the Mayor, he's at that office 8 to 10 hours a day - if he didn't see this coming, then I sympathize with him," said Evans.

But Stiers said he's suggested ways the city could raise extra money like selling timber on a piece of city-owned land next to the hospital or annexing property east of town. He said council members turned those ideas down.

During Thursday's city council meeting, council members will consider increasing the garbage fee by $3 a month and raising the fire protection fee for people who live outside the city. They'll also reconsider selling some city-owned property.

Evans said those ideas are short term fixes and doesn't want to pass the problem on to taxpayers. He said he thinks the city should stop spending money it doesn't have and should call the state in to do an audit.

Stiers said all hourly employees were paid Thursday while four salaried employees will be paid double on Monday.

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