All of these below discussed items are subject to change before the budget is finalized. These numbers and figures are not final.
It’s finally that time of year again where the City, the County, and the School Board all sit down and begin preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year. With the County and the School Board both already entering the public hearing phases of their budgets, the City has followed suit, taking their work session time of Tuesday, May 23rd to meet all day and discuss the plans for their very well put together and organized budget. The budget meeting covered the high points in the general fund, the request for funding from other agencies, and very detailed breakdowns of each department. The SPLOST projects were discussed as well.
The meeting began with some highlights of 2017 as well as the overall prospects for 2018. This section touched on some personnel re-alignments, the Gateway Corridor Plan, sign repairs, the dredging at Granger Pond, and several other projects the City is preparing for or has already begun. For 2018, the City is looking to hire 12 new positions, funding the election, replacing several street and road signs, and adding a lot of new equipment to their inventory.
The Mayor, Council, and Staff moved into the General Fund, breaking down their expenses. Specifically, they spoke on the different taxes, which is of course 40% of the funding for this fund (52% are transfer ins), and how each of the taxes have performed over the past fiscal year. The breakdown of this section, as did the breakdowns for all of the other sections, became very precise and detailed. Personnel, contracted service, supplies, debt services, capital outlays, and other costs were the areas broken down specifically inside the general fund.
The big item of the morning as always seems to be the case this time of the year, came down to requests from other entities for City funding. The city has for many years given funds to many different local organizations and businesses to help support them. This year, there were over 40 entities listed on the budget. Many of these organizations have been helped by funding from the City for years and several were requesting increase in the amount of funding that they hoped to receive. This year, the City is attempting to make some cuts in many departments. Specifically, many of these agencies will tentatively receive the same amount of funding as they did the year before without any of there asked increases. Some of these agencies could even receive a 10% cut. The City is also looking at the possibility of doing a cut across the board on all agencies to balance the budget. Of course, all of these numbers and cuts are subject to change before the vote on the final budget in the coming weeks. The total estimated budget for agencies this year was to be $1,593,287.00, but that number could be reduced significantly should the City continue to adjust their budget cuts.
The other major discussion between the group was the SPLOST projects that are forth coming for the City. Already underway currently for the City is phase one of the Thread at Granger Park, the Bull Street Re-alignment, and coming very soon, the Roundabout at Country Club Road. Countywide current projects include Tom Hall Parkway and the Vernon Woods Parkway.
The City has some very incredible projects planned for SPLOST in 2018 should it pass the vote in November. The city has plans to begin phase two of the Thread at Eastside Park to George Harris. There are plans for a new fire station and a new fire burn building, a new skate park, the before mentioned Broad Street Roundabout at Country Club Road, utility relocation, and the resurfacing of many roads. The rest of the meeting consisted of the Mayor and Council being briefed on the budget for the rest of the departments. Community Development, General Capital Improvement, Utility, Water & Sewer, Electric, Gas, Telecom, and Sanitation were all broken down into individual sections. Each section seemed to be in line with previous years, with 5% merit based raises for employees and even 2% cost of living adjustments. This thorough and detailed budget will go through public hearings and be voted on in the upcoming weeks.