Fort Valley sees minor budget shortfall

FORT VALLEY — The city’s budget for the 2009 fiscal year was just slightly more than the city’s revenues, officials said at Thursday’s Fort Valley City Council meeting.

Preliminary figures place the city’s operating budget for 2009 about $2,600 over projections. It is good news, Mayor John Stumbo said, as the city was expected to end the year more than $150,000 in debt.

“We owe so much to these council members and staff,” he said during the meeting. “We hoped we would pick up (the loss) some time through the year. We didn’t have to furlough anybody, and we didn’t have to lay anybody off. You can’t cut employees without cutting quality of service.”

Departments submitted 5 percent budget reductions and instituted hiring freezes to help offset the debt, said Councilwoman Melba Hester, also chair of the city’s finance committee. The budget also helped the city approve a millage rate of 9.885, significantly lower than the previous year’s rate of 11.446.

Health-care increases played a major role in unexpected expenditures. According to the city’s preliminary figures, an additional $327,217.47 was spent on insurance than had been initially budgeted.

The council also approved hiring Larry Brown to be the new director of public works. Brown retired from Macon’s public works department after serving in various capacities for more than 31 years. Officials said more than 100 people from across the country applied. Brown starts Nov. 2.

The council also asked for prayers for councilwoman Florine Statham, who was absent from the meeting. Stumbo said Statham, who is battling colorectal cancer, has been feeling better recently.

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.