WR council receives draft budget near $35M

WARNER ROBINS — There won’t be any layoffs or furloughs in Warner Robins. There won’t be much hiring, either.

That’s the word as the city’s draft budget was briefly presented to City Council at Monday’s meeting. The budget, appropriated at $34,682,255, is 3 percent higher than last year’s total, Chief Financial Officer Bill Harte said Monday during the board’s pre-council session. According to prepared documents presented to the council, the budget includes coverage of a group health contribution increase of $1.1 million. The city hopes to save money by freezing jobs in the general administration, public works, police and city development departments, as well as a decreased worker’s compensation contribution.

“Revenue sources are down, but the tax digest saw a jump,” Harte said while addressing the council. “There’s no millage rate increase expected.”

The first public hearing on the budget will take place June 7, the day of the next City Council meeting.

The council also voted to approve a pay and classification study to be completed by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, in which the group would work to review and upgrade the current job classification system and pay plan for city employees.

The council also approved the sale of surplus vehicles from the Warner Robins Police Department, which are being sold because they are unable to be used for their intended purposes. The cars, eight marked and two unmarked Ford Crown Victorias, will be advertised, then officials will take sealed bids.

Harte said he, City Attorney Jim Elliott and Purchasing Agent Mark Baker will look into changing the bid approval protocols after Mayor Chuck Shaheen mentioned that all purchasing bids over $2,500 must be approved by the council, but work is delayed on small projects because of the low figure.

Shaheen, Councilman John Williams and Councilman Bob Wilbanks said during the precouncil session that they were for approving a higher figure so smaller projects get done faster.

“They ought not be bogged down with coming back to the mayor and council,” Wilbanks said.

Before the precouncil session began, the council, in different hats as board members of the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency, approved the contract for Alpharetta company MACTEC to begin the environmental assessment on the land proposed for the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership. MACTEC was awarded the project in March after a vote by the board and a recommendation by the G-RAMP committee, headed by logistics consultant Don Jarzynka.

“This is primetime for the base,” Jarzynka said Monday.

“They are overwhelmed with doing work. No matter what, this environmental assessment needs to be done, whether we do anything with this land.”

The assessment is the first hurdle before groundwork can begin on the project, which is estimated to bring millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs to the city.

“This is a huge project that will help your children and grandchildren in the future,” Shaheen said.

Before adjourning that meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss bylaw changes. Among them were selection of the chairman, the board and of the group’s executive director. All would be selected by a majority vote if changes are made.

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