Centerville council gets first look at proposed $7.6 million budget

Telegraph correspondentMay 6, 2014 

CENTERVILLE -- City Council received a proposed $7.6 million budget for review during its regular meeting Tuesday.

The budget is for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins in July. Council will have a presentation and public hearing on the budget at its next meeting, June 3. Council members plan to vote on it as is or with changes at their June 17 work session.

Technically, the proposed budget is 32 percent less than the current 2013-14 budget, or about $3.5 million less.

However, the 2013-14 budget contained $3 million in special purpose local option sales tax funds that were used to build the city’s new police station.

The final amended 2013-14 fiscal budget was $11,195,867. The proposed new budget is $7,614,136 for all city funds.

City accountant Carol Harrison, who worked with department heads and two city council members to put the budget together, said before the meeting that the budget proposal is based on the same millage rate as last year.

Councilman Cameron Andrews, a budget committee member along with Councilman Randall Wright, said city officials will not know county property assessments until late-July or early-August, and millage rates will have to be set at that time.

Andrews was not at Tuesday’s council meeting but said in a phone interview that because property assessments generally increase from year to year, he hopes council will be able to roll back millage rates after assessment values are known, even if only slightly.

“I hope we’ll be able to save taxpayers at least a sliver even if not a whole lot,” Andrews said. “I want to go with a rollback because raising taxes isn’t just a point of contention with citizens, but it is with me personally as well. We don’t want to raise taxes. We don’t want to reduce services either. We do want to be careful and be good stewards of people’s money.”

Some budget highlights include funds for hiring an economic development employee; merit pay increases for city employees as warranted on their annual evaluations but no across-the-board cost of living increases; no salary increase for city department heads in the new fiscal year following a pay increase last March; and a fund set aside to begin saving for a new fire engine.

Mayor John Harley commended Harrison, the two councilmen and department heads for a lean, well-prepared budget.

The budget plan is available for public viewing at City Hall.

In other business, council:

• Tabled a vote on changing City Hall community room fees until there can be a vote of full council;

• Acknowledged a police department expenditure of $1,050 from confiscated funds for computer storage, which will allow Centerville to store and backup Houston County 911 Center data and allow the 911 Center to store Centerville police data.

• Acknowledged a police department expenditure of $1,000 from confiscated funds as a donation to the Macon Regional CrimeStoppers program which the department uses;

• Voted that $3,685 be spent to replace a failed air conditioner at the city’s fire department;

• Acknowledged a resident complaint about noise levels coming from live outside music at Meldino’s pizzeria. Police Capt. Roger Hayes, who was at the council meeting, said police were aware of the situation and were taking steps to see that city codes were followed.

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