Macon City Finance Director Tom Barber ushered in the ugly news Thursday afternoon in a lengthy midyear review of the city’s budget: Revenues are off by at least $2.2 million, the Centreplex operation will lose about $1 million this year and health insurance will cost the city an additional $2 million.
The good news, officials said, is that the city has cut $2 million in spending from the general fund. Even so, that still leaves more than $3 million in extra costs for the city to make up by spending less.
Meanwhile, there are signs of life at the Centreplex with Noble Investment Group at the helm.
“They’re running it like a business,” Barber said. For at least the past 10 years, the Centreplex has lost no less than $1 million a year and already has lost almost $800,000 halfway through fiscal year 2010. But recent sell-out shows by country musicians Jason Aldean and Willie Nelson — plus a promising schedule of upcoming entertainment offerings — may turn fortunes around, officials said. Just not this year.
Next week, an infrared scan of the Coliseum’s roof may yield more bad news, and last weekend the roof of the City Auditorium leaked on Nelson while he performed, Barber said.
Still, he remains hopeful.
“If we do turn this thing around, that’s $1 million, $1.5 million a year we’re not footing,” he told the Macon City Council’s Appropriations Committee. “It’s an addition by subtraction.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Barber and Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard also discussed a spike in costs to the city for employee health insurance. They confirmed the council’s concerns that a few city employees with expensive health issues have increased the costs for the whole employee pool.
Committee Chairman Mike Cranford — joined by several others on the council — emphatically requested more information about how the city could reduce these costs by implementing more wellness initiatives.
Especially appalled, Councilwoman Nancy White, who is a nurse, said, “I’ve been asking for this longer than most. Nothing has been done, and it’s just sad.”
Hubbard said a new plan is about 90 percent complete, but it would not be ready to share with the council in time for the next Appropriations Committee meeting Monday.
Between the national recession and ongoing appeals of the recent Bibb County property revaluation, city officials expected tax revenues to be down. Property tax revenue is down more than $1.6 million compared with last year. Sales tax figures are off by $638,846, officials said.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.