Warner Robins budget taps reserve fund again

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms presented a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year Monday.
Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms presented a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year Monday. wcrenshaw@macon.com

A proposed budget for Warner Robins does not call for a tax increase but takes $2.7 million from the reserve fund.

The reserve fund is from the money the city has set aside each year in times of surplus. Chief Financial Officer Holly Gross said city policy calls for having enough in the fund to operate for 2 1/2 months. She said the city will be well within that with the money taken to balance the budget.

The city requires $8.7 million in the reserve fund to meet the 2 1/2 month policy and currently has about $14 million, Gross said. The reserve fund is considered important to ensure the city can sustain itself in times of a substantial economic downturn or other unforeseen circumstances.

Mayor Randy Toms presented the budget at Monday’s council meeting, although he did not discuss the details of it. A hearing on it will be held June 5. The council will vote on it prior to July 1 and there could be changes. The budget is available at the city’s website, www.wrga.gov, and is also available for inspection at City Hall.

Toms defended using reserve fund money to balance the budget, which the city also did last year. Toms said he expects revenues to grow beyond the current projections and it may be that the city won’t need the reserve fund money, or at least not as much as the budget projects.

“The truth is in the past we’ve taken money from the reserve funds, put it in there to balance the budget and then it doesn’t get used,” he said. “It goes right back into the reserve fund.”

The city used $2.3 million from the reserve fund to balance the current fiscal year budget, but Gross said the city is on track to spend only about $600,000 of that. Smaller amounts of money were also allotted from the reserve fund in the previous two years to balance the budget, but she said the city ended up using none of that and actually added to the reserve fund those years.

Toms said he expects some of the reserve fund money will have to be used to pay for a new municipal court building, which is not a special purpose local option sales tax project. Also, he said, the city continues to see increases in medical care payouts in its self-funded health insurance.

The budget calls for total spending of $101.7 million during the fiscal year to begin July 1. That includes the general fund at $41.9 million, the special revenue fund at $5.9 million, the capital projects fund at $20.9 million and the enterprise fund at $33 million.

The general fund pays for basic city services such as the police and fire department, public works, recreation and general government. The enterprise funds are operations self funded by fees. Those are garbage, water and sewer, natural gas and stormwater drainage.

The $101.7 million total is a substantial increase from the $82.9 million total of last year’s budget, but most of that is in the capital projects fund, which is SPLOST dollars. Gross said the total might actually be revised downward substantially in the final budget because the $20.9 million is the amount of SPLOST dollars the city has available, not what it is likely to spend in the next year.

The budget includes a 2-percent raise for city employees.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1