Warner Robins budget grows, but no tax increase expected

mstucka@macon.comMay 19, 2014 

wr_mayor_debate

Warner Robins mayoral candidate Randy Toms debates Joe Musselwhite in November at the campus of Central Georgia Technical College.

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WARNER ROBINS -- City employees would get a raise but the city’s millage rate would remain unchanged under a draft fiscal 2015 budget presented Monday by Mayor Randy Toms.

Toms’ budget, which was not discussed in the City Council meeting, would offer a 3-percent adjustment to the city’s pay scale. The budget also calls for an increase of about $900,000 in city health-care spending and a $200,000 increase in workers’ compensation funds.

Those changes help increase the general fund budget by about 4.5 percent, to $37.2 million. The budget calls for an increase of revenue of 2.66 percent, driven largely by taxes on new construction. To balance the budget, the city’s general fund would take an additional $600,000 from its natural gas fund and siphon $521,717 from its financial reserves. Toms said in a letter to City Council members that the subsidy is safe because of an expected budget surplus from the current fiscal budget.

Toms told The Telegraph he thinks his proposal is sound. The city still has about a month to work on it.

Also Monday, the City Council voted to offer moral support but not financial support for a redevelopment of the Oscar Thomie Homes, a vacant public housing complex off Ignico Drive. If tax credits are approved this year, mixed-income housing would be complete by the spring of 2016, said developer James Brooks. The first phase is planned to be worth about $10 million, with a potential total investment of $25 million. The Warner Robins Housing Authority has found money to tear down the old complex.

“We think this represents a terrific investment in this town,” Brooks told council members, who have been discussing upgrades for the north side of the city.

The council also agreed to send recommendations for a downtown redevelopment plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The plans call for better design standards, such as brick buildings, in an area centered on Watson Boulevard.

Separately, the council voted to ask the Planning and Zoning Commission to further study a Lakeview Road site. A developer wants a C-2 general commercial district zoning, though much of the site is now in a neighborhood commercial district and adjoins medical offices and several neighborhoods. Residents are opposed, and many of them bought houses because of the more restrictive zoning, said a spokeswoman, Robbin Gosline.

The council also approved $4,897 to add a speed bump to Snellgrove Drive. Little League, which earlier this year closed the road in an apparent violation of a deed, requested speed bumps, more police patrols and speed limits as low as 15 mph. Council members thought about how neighborhoods had requested such speed bumps and decided to call the wide, raised speed bump a pedestrian crossing.

Council members also reluctantly agreed to take back Tommy Stalnaker Drive, which had been deeded away for free about seven years ago. The cul de sac is the subject of a Houston County Superior Court lawsuit. A developer who took over the street won an injunction against a doctor who is building on the street that prohibits him from reaching the building.

Councilman Chuck Shaheen said the developer essentially is charging the doctor $72,000 to gain access to his property.

Councilman Tim Thomas shook his head as the issue went to a vote.

“Unfortunately, we have to do it, but I don’t think it’s right,” he said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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