The Lebanon City Council met Tuesday where it was split 3-3 on whether to approve the annual budget.
With ‘yes’ votes from councilors Rob Cesternino, Joe Hayes and Tick Bryan and ‘no’ votes from councilors Lanny Jewell, Fred Burton and Kathy Warmath, Mayor Philip Craighead broke the tie voting to approve the budget.
“I still think it’s a little high. I knew there was not much of a way of coming out of the deficit without doing something but I still think it’s a little high and that’s my reasoning,” Jewell said.
The approved budget will include a 25.44-cent property tax increase that should help eliminate a $2.6 million deficit.
At a public hearing prior to the meeting Bob O’Brien said he felt the council had done a very diligent job and “looked under every rock” in the budget process.
“I think the whole process has been good for the city and has increased the credibility of the proposed budget,” O’Brien said.
However, O’Brien said though the tax rate had been reduced, he still felt the tax increase in the budget would be putting a significant burden on property owners in Lebanon.
“I still want to absolutely commend the coming together that took place during budget process and I know it was very tough but one we all benefit from,” O’Brien said.
Cesternino said now that the budget process is over he had a few things he wanted to begin focusing on.
“I want to look into eliminating health benefit for councilors once they’re done serving and I don’t know what that would look like, but I want to try to work with other council members to come up with a plan that’s feasible and try to get them on board,” Cesternino said.
Cesternino said he, along with Warmath, wanted to work to adjust the retirement structure within the city.
“I want every city employee to know this would just be for employees that we hire going forward once we would implement this,” Cesternino said. “I’m not going to support taking anything from anyone or taking anything anyone has earned.”
The council also approved an Access Management Plan Study that would be on South Hartmann Drive and run from Interstate 40 to West Main Street.
Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said that this study would include the area that Lebanon High School was in and that the city is looking ahead, especially with the recent traffic issues in that area.
“The school board has absolutely been working with us on the traffic issue and our big concern has been moving traffic off Hartmann Drive,” Baines said.
Baines said they would continue to monitor progress in the area but they have been satisfied tremendously since this time last year.
“I think citizens need to realize when traffic gets on the schools campus its not our responsibility anymore, it’s the school systems,” Baines said.
Baines said that he hoped by this time next week drivers in the area would be more accustomed to the new routine.