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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)


Reference Number: MTAS-108
Reviewed Date: 10/21/2022

Most municipal charters contain some provisions about fiscal administration. However, some general laws have been enacted in this area. If these laws are more restrictive or comprehensive, they take precedence over charter provisions. For example, the general law requiring annual audits supersedes a private act requiring only biennial audits.

Budget, Appropriations, Publication Requirements
The Municipal Budget Law of 1982 applies to municipalities that do not have budget provisions in their charters requiring detailed estimates of proposed expenditures, expenditures for the preceding fiscal year, reasons for recommended departures, and estimates of anticipated revenue from all sources with comparative statements for the past, present, and next fiscal year.

Cities operating under general law charters and cities that do not have charter budget requirements, at least as detailed as the Municipal Budget Law of 1982 (T.C.A. §§ 6-56-201, et seq.), must publish their annual operating budget, comparisons of the proposed budget with the actual budget for the prior year, and estimated expenditures for the current year. This must include:

  • Revenues and expenditures for the general, public works, general purpose school, and debt service funds;
  • Revenue sources for each fund broken down by local, state, federal, and other sources;
  • Expenditures for each fund listed separately by salaries and other costs;
  • Beginning and ending fund balances for each fund; and
  • The number of full-time equivalent employee positions for each fund.

Publication must be in a newspaper of general circulation no fewer than 10 days before the meeting at which the governing body will consider final passage of the budget.

Appropriated Funds Required
A general law provides that "no person shall be entitled to have made available to them or otherwise be entitled to any program or any services ... unless funds remain available for such program or service from monies appropriated for that purpose by ... the appropriate governing body of a political subdivision".T.C.A. § 9-1-116. There are no exceptions to the rule that public funds in Tennessee may not be spent until a governing body has appropriated them.

Appropriations to Civic, Charitable, and Educational Organizations
Cities may make appropriations to charitable organizations and non-profit civic organizations (organizations operating under 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code), such as chambers of commerce and industrial promotion agencies. The city must prescribe guidelines directing how agencies may use the money. The agencies must submit an annual report and audit to the city. Advance newspaper notice is required for an appropriation to a non-profit civic organization. Also, the state comptroller is required to issue regulations governing such appropriations. T.C.A. § 6-54-111. 

Appropriations to nonprofit organizations other than charitable organizations may be made only after notices have been published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality of the intent to make an appropriation to a nonprofit, but not charitable, organization specifying the intended amount of the appropriation and the purposes for which the appropriation will be spent.

Municipalities are specifically authorized to donate public funds to public or tax-supported colleges and universities and even levy taxes for such donations. T.C.A. § 49-7-108.

The Tennessee Fire Service and Code Enforcement Academy may accept donations of property, services, and money from any public agency. T.C.A. § 68-102-205.

Loans to Other Entities
Cities may contract to make loans, grants, donations, and reimbursements to utility districts and other local governments for constructing public works. T.C.A. § 9-21-107. However, recent changes to the Wastewater Facilities Act do not allow the General Fund to make contributions or grants to a water, wastewater, or combined system.