Fort Valley City Council approves 2011 budget

FORT VALLEY — The City Council voted Thursday morning to approve a budget for the 2011 fiscal year that cuts capital project spending, a department head position and, for the second straight year, cost-of-living increases.

The new budget also includes funds generated from a 2-mill tax-rate increase. Officials plan a vote on the millage-rate increase after a third public hearing on the matter next week.

Officials held the meeting Thursday just prior to the start of the city’s new fiscal year, which begins Friday.

“Nobody ever promised us that this job would be easy,” Mayor John Stumbo told the 10 people in attendance. “I think we tried to be responsible to the people we serve.”

Absent from the meeting was Councilman Jimmy Barnes. Councilwoman Florine Statham chose to abstain from the vote on the budget.

The group held a public hearing before the council adopted the new budget to discuss the proposed 2-mill rate increase to 11.855.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value.

The rate increase represents an $80 increase for a home valued at $100,000.

But the public hearing became a forum of sorts, with residents asking questions about assistance for small-business owners, concerns about an open-air drug market and the loss of the fire chief’s position.

One woman, who lives in Peach County, asked officials about the process for animals captured by the city’s animal control workers.

In the matter of Fire Chief Otis Daniel, who sat in the audience during Thursday’s meeting on his last official day at work, Fort Valley resident Alvin Williams was concerned with the fact that the job was never open for applications from the general public.

Stumbo said it was not required for the position.

“This is one of those situations where we feel like he can do the job,” Stumbo said of Police Chief John David Anderson, who will lead both the police and fire departments as the city’s director of public safety.

Another woman asked whether any thought had been given to having one department, with workers cross-trained to handle both police and fire functions. Stumbo said there had, and it may happen in the future.

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