Warner Robins approves fiscal 2013 budget

WARNER ROBINS -- City Council unanimously approved the Warner Robins fiscal 2013 budget without any fanfare at a called meeting Thursday.

The spending plan includes a nearly $35.8 million general fund that covers the daily operation of city government. Other components of the budget include the nearly $16.6 million water and sewer fund, the nearly $8 million sanitation fund, the $5.8 million natural gas fund, the nearly $4.9 million capital project fund, the $2.9 million special revenue fund and the nearly $2.3 million stormwater drainage fund.

Councilman Daron Lee noted the budget includes funds for what he felt was a good compromise on a public information officer for the city.

The mayor had wanted to create a $43,060 media relations position. The compromise on the job was $15,000 set aside for a city employee to handle promotion of the city through social media avenues such as Facebook while also handling some media interaction, Mayor Chuck Shaheen said after the meeting.

On passage of the budget, Shaheen said it does not include a tax increase but does include salary increases for most employees based on a pay study. He attributed the success of the budget to the public for supporting the special purpose local option sales tax that takes a burden off the general fund.

Also, the general fund is expected to receive revenue transfers of $466,000 from the Tourist Allocation Board, $1.8 million from the water and sewer fund and $1.6 million from the natural gas fund, according to the budget ordinance approved by council.

Residents protest planned apartment complex

Before the called meeting, council also held its regularly scheduled precouncil meeting at which two representatives of area residents again expressed opposition to a 287-unit apartment complex planned for nearly 40 acres south of Bass Road and west of south Houston Lake Road.

Residents raised a myriad of issues including increased traffic, effect on water pressure, the city’s ability to provide police and fire protection, the impact on property values, and the impact on area schools as well as on the environment.

A representative for the developer noted the apartment complex represents a $24 million investment, the high-end rent for a three-bedroom apartment would be about $1,100 a month, and the complex includes a fence and land buffer that exceeds the city’s requirement.

The required annexation and rezoning measures for the apartment complex are expected to be on the agenda for Monday’s council meeting.

Also at Thursday’s precouncil meeting, members watched a video on the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, which may have its last performance Monday at the 30th annual Warner Robins Independence Day Concert. The band, which coordinates the concert, is being deactivated because of federal budget cuts.

Shaheen suggested a letter of support from council members, along with the video, be sent to congressional leaders representing Georgia to question its disbandment. Lee noted that while that could be Plan A, that the city ought to have a Plan B for the annual concert. He suggested that city leaders begin looking for a collaboration of area businesses to offset the loss of the band and its $200,000 funding of the concert.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.