Perry nixes increase of millage rate

PERRY — When the Perry City Council gathers to vote on the fiscal year 2010 $10.4 million budget, an anticipated half-mill tax-rate increase will no longer appear in the document.

The City Council spent most of its time during a work session Thursday discussing how to remove the need for the increase. The end result was a decision to transfer funds and remove expenditures from the budget amounting to $267,700.

A 1-percent merit increase for city employees was removed while $109,700 in profit from the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia from the gas fund was added. The city also opted to cease supporting the ADVANCED program, a drug prevention initiative in schools, as well as eliminating one school resource officer position. The latter changes mean two full-time positions will be lost from the police department.

City councilman Joe Kusar voiced his concern for cutting the two positions and instead said the city should be looking at cutting other costs.

“I don’t know that we should be lowering service to the community,” Kusar said.

City Manager Lee Gilmour said the positions could possibly stay on if the Houston County School Board funded both of them.

Gilmour also added that making the changes was difficult as he told the council of other options such as cutting recreation or the number of building inspectors or possibly support of community organizations.

“That’s the difficult issue here — weighing the importance of one function against another,” Gilmour said.

The budget was presented June 2 to the City Council with the increase incorporated.

Gilmour said the millage-rate increase would help offset declines in other revenue. It would also help pay for operating costs as the city sets its sights on a second fire station.

The proposed increase would eventually lead to an overall 1.78 mill increase expected to be phased in over a three-year period. The change would have cost a homeowner with a $100,000 home an additional $20 in city taxes.

Though the budget will not reflect the increase, the City Council still has until September to vote on raising the rates when the tax digest comes out.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.