Forsyth council approves cost-saving measures

pramati@macon.comApril 30, 2013 

FORSYTH -- The City Council unanimously approved three measures Tuesday night designed to help alleviate the city’s budget shortfall.

At a specially called meeting Tuesday night, council members approved moving $600,000 from a competitive trust fund to the city’s general fund in order to pay off its bills, including money owed to the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

The council also approved a hiring and spending freeze for all city departments, allowing only for “essential” spending. The council said City Administrator Thomas White would have the ultimate decision in deciding what is deemed essential.

Councilman Eric Wilson also put forth a motion to wait to examine potential rate increases to the city’s utilities until the council’s second meeting in August. The council approved it.

The council and Mayor John Howard II spent more than 90 minutes reviewing the city’s income and expenses, going all the way back to 2006.

Officials were informed by staff that the city is below projected revenues in electricity, water and sewage. Only Forsyth’s cable system is breaking even.

White told council members that even if the revenues are where they were projected, it would only cover the costs of running the utility services. It wouldn’t provide any extra money for items such as health insurance, which Forsyth also is obligated to provide.

Wilson said he thinks some of the cash flow issues might get better over the summer. For example, he noted, the midstate had a mild winter which kept heating costs down. But traditionally hot summers would mean more revenue when residents start to run their air conditioning units.

The city also lost about $300,000 in annual revenues earlier in mid-April when a judge ruled in favor of Monroe County in how money from the Local Option Sales Tax is divided.

Council members unanimously approved the city attorney to appeal the decision. However, they were informed that an appeal must be filed to an appellate court, which will decide if there are grounds for an appeal. The decision about the split itself can’t be directly appealed.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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