Murfreesboro has seen a decade of boom times, with increasing population, brisk construction and commercial growth. While that trend shows no sign of slowing, officials are signaling that this is the year to pivot toward more prudent government spending.
The recently proposed Murfreesboro budget, which is to be discussed in special meetings next week, seeks ways to reduce city debt, to take less money out of general fund reserves, and to begin looking into new revenue sources — meaning possible new fees or tax increases.
“This is a transition for Murfreesboro,” said acting City Manager Jim Crumley. “We’ve been the beneficiary of tremendous growth, but with that growth has come the need for expenditures to keep up with schools, with roads, and with parks.”
Overall, the proposal would increase spending by 5.12 percent, which is more than the projected revenue increase of 2.42 percent — a gap the city council wants narrowed in coming years.
Some of the increases would go into a 3 percent salary increase for all employees, plus more for some specialized positions. (Crumley said the city has fallen behind peers in a competitive labor market).
The city’s 10 schools, which are separate from Rutherford County, would see an increase.
And there would be a boost to police funding to add eight officers, so that one can be placed in each school.
While the city isn’t hurting financially, a long-term conversation is beginning about balancing the budget.
“Raising some additional revenue is part of helping the city out of its reliance on our reserves each year,” Crumley said, noting that operations costs have already been trimmed. “We feel like we’ve proven we can’t cut our way out of a long-term situation.”
Still, the approach does not include a property tax increase. That means Murfreesboro will hold the line on a levy that hasn’t increased in more than 20 years, although Crumley said a change could be on the horizon.
Landfill Closure Triggers Change
Residents should expect to begin paying a solid waste fee, potentially starting at $10 per household per month. That could begin next year.
Trash collection, along with brush collection and bulk pickups, are currently paid for out of property taxes, but Murfreesboro intends to separate out that service and fund it through a fee on households.
This change anticipates the much-discussed pending closure of the Middle Point Landfill in Rutherford County, which has allowed cheap disposal for 26 years.
“We know that the die is already cast, that these costs are coming our way,” Crumley said.
The slow rollout of a new solid waste fee symbolizes the overall shift in Murfreesboro, where officials aren’t under immediate duress, but beginning to shift.
In fact, sales tax revenues are still humming, with an anticipated increase of 7 percent in the coming year. Building permits are near record levels; Murfreesboro expects more state funds following a special census that found a population increase of 19,000 since 2011; and new gas tax revenues are being funneled into road projects.
“There’s been no signs in Murfreesboro of growth slowing down,” Crumley said. “The city council wants to prepare for that time, eventually, when growth is not the common topic of every meeting we have.”
The Murfreesboro City Council is scheduled to meet three times next week, at 4 p.m. on June 5, 6, and 7, with follow-up work sessions the following week, only as needed.