Mayor’s State of the City and Budget Address
Lane Curlee, Mayor
June 22, 2020
To the Board of Aldermen and the citizens of Tullahoma. What a great day to be in Tullahoma! For the 18th and last time I present a Budget Message and State of the City to you as mayor. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the economic vitality of Tullahoma as well as some of the achievements that have shaped our community the past year.
I am pleased to report the City government enjoys an Aa2 Bond rating, one of the highest in the state for a community our size. The City government once again had no audit findings. Your city government earned the GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Management, as well as the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, one of the few cities in Tennessee to have that distinction. These are independent and objective measures of how your tax monies are managed and measured for financial soundness. This budget represents a fiscally conservative approach to manage the fiscal affairs of city government. I appreciate the leadership of City Administrator Jennifer Moody and Finance Director Sue Wilson for their professional approach in managing the fiscal affairs of city government. I also appreciate all Department Heads for their leadership and management of the day-to-day affairs in their departments.
I’m pleased to report we have met the biggest challenge Tullahoma, and the world, has experienced in years. As of today, 99 people in Coffee County have tested positive for COVID-19 and fortunately, no deaths from the virus have been reported and all but 25 have recovered.
The Corona Virus has challenged our city both fiscally and emotionally. In March, Ms. Moody took decisive fiscal action, curtailing expenditures across all departments of city government. I appreciate her quick action. The preparation of this budget has been a particular challenge with all the uncertainty. Emotionally, I’m confident many Tullahoma citizens have scars that will take time to heal. The Coffee County May unemployment rate is an unbelievably high 19.8%. However, I’m encouraged to see so many “Help Wanted” signs in businesses around town.
I know of many instances when Tullahoma citizens stepped up to help their neighbors. I appreciate Alderman Dunn and citizen Leigh Fogle coordinating a community effort to help citizens in need. I also appreciate several members of our Mayor’s Youth Council for their help in contacting over 1,000 senior citizens to make sure their basic needs were being met.
I have faith in Tullahoma’s diverse economy, strong entrepreneurial sector and livability and that we will continue to attract both private and public investment.
Now, to the budget before you. This budget represents our best effort at preserving, managing and building the assets of Tullahoma….whether these are people, buildings or programs. I welcome the Boards’ and citizens’ suggestions and offers of improvements. The budget as proposed contains no property tax increase for the next fiscal year and is balanced. It does not appropriate additional monies for Tullahoma City Schools.
The departments of city government made requests to improve or enhance services that will not be funded in this budget. Thanks to excellent financial stewardship, total operating expenditures are down 3.7%. Step raises are included for city government employees.
Other 20/21 budget highlights include:
- Because of Covid-19, total city government revenues are projected to be down 3.3% based on state and national projections. However, so far Tullahoma saw a 6.1% increase in sales tax collections in March, and as of Saturday, an incredible 8.4% increase in sales tax collections for April. This is in contrast to the state’s sales tax collections in April, a decrease of 14% from April of last year. If this trend continues, modifications to the budget can be made during the fiscal year. This increase is primarily due to Tullahoma being positioned as a retail hub and the number of grocery stores and other stores selling essential items.
- Nearly every department of city government will see a decrease in expenditures this next year with a total decrease of 3.7%. Once again, I appreciate the work of Ms. Moody and Ms. Wilson and department heads for aligning expenditures with anticipated revenues. I realize there were many difficult decisions made in this budget.
- The city government will receive a direct appropriation of over $450,000 in stimulus funds. There are no strings attached to this money. It can be used for capital expenditures or to balance the budget should conditions turn south.
Our seven new community initiatives are seeing active community engagement. I continue to look for big things from Get Fit! Tullahoma and the Tourism, Downtown, Arts, Go Green, Sports and Entrepreneurial Councils. I am also excited about the Diversity Council as proposed by Alderman Blackwell.
All of these are designed to enhance the quality of life in Tullahoma. It is also important we design a community to which our young families want to remain, return or relocate. My research tells me these young families want to live in artsy, green, fitness-oriented communities.
Despite the national and international challenges that have impacted Tullahoma, I am so proud and pleased with what the people of Tullahoma have accomplished this year. I’ll mention but a few:
- In March the Tullahoma micropolitan area was recognized as the number 37 micropolitan area in the U.S. by Site Selection magazine
- In May the Tullahoma Micropolitan area was ranked 7th nationally for our entrepreneurial ecosystem’s capacity to foster strong growth by a think tank affiliated with the Walton Foundation.
- Policon once again selected the Tullahoma Micropolitan Area as the number one micropolitan area in the state.
- Over 100 new companies now call Tullahoma home
- The Chamber of Commerce added 46 new members, bringing their total membership to over 400, breaking their record.
- The 2020 THS graduates once again earned millions of dollars in scholarship monies
- The Tullahoma City School’s nutrition staff has served over 100,000 meals to children during the extended school closure.
- Tullahoma was one of ten communities selected in the TVA region to participate in the Innovation Academy to develop methods to boost entrepreneurial start-ups in Tullahoma.
- We welcomed several high profile retailers and saw several local industries expand.
- Lighttube subscriber accounts exceeded 4,000.
- TUA dedicated their Solar Farm.
- 582 building permits have been issued, with a total valuation of $49,954,521.41.
- Downtown renovations are continuing, with much more work in progress.
- The Sports Council inducted the second group of Tullahoma Sports Hall of Fame honorees.
Our chief job as Mayor and Aldermen is to define our vision and inspire the community to help reach the vision. It is critical we keep our eyes on our bold vision for Tullahoma to be considered world class in everything we do. From job creation, to cleanliness, to high school graduation rates and everything in-between, I want Tullahoma to be the best and considered a world-class community.
There appears to be a great deal of confidence in Tullahoma, both from citizens already here and from outsiders looking to invest here. And many more exciting things are on the drawing board. By growing Tullahoma, diverse jobs will be created from entry level to the professional level.
The opportunities are ours but we do not want to wait on opportunities. We want to create them.
Many of the positive actions I have presented are due to the efforts of the city government and affiliated agencies. However, there are countless acts of good will that quietly happen every day by Tullahoma citizens, businesses, churches and organizations that truly make a positive difference in the lives of all Tullahomans. Thanks everyone for all you do to make Tullahoma a great place to work, live, play and raise our families.
We should all be challenged by three thoughts:
1) “Great cities are intentional, not accidental.” In other words, we must have a plan and take strategic steps to accomplish our plan.
2) “Why can’t Tullahoma be the best?” Some city is going to be the best…..why not Tullahoma? We should always strive to be the best in everything we do.
3) “If you really love Tullahoma, you have to help make Tullahoma better.” We all have opportunities to improve Tullahoma, whether through your school, job, civic club, church, neighborhood, or household. Get involved. Make a difference. Leave Tullahoma better than when you found it.
In summary, Tullahoma is truly a blessed community. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. While it truly is a great day to be in Tullahoma, let’s always remember we can make a great community even greater. Let’s leave Tullahoma better than we found it by the work we do and the decisions we make.
I look forward to watching what this Board, the city government and the citizens of Tullahoma accomplish next fiscal year.
Lane Curlee, Mayor
June 22, 2020