F’ville approves $10.6 million budget

Tue, 07/22/2008 - 4:23pm
By: The Citizen

The 2009 Fayetteville General Fund budget totaling $10.588 million is a done deal. It represents a $470,577 increase beginning Aug. 1 to cover personnel costs, jail costs and 911 services. Council members at the July 17 meeting also heard the first reading of Phase 3 of increases that will affect sewer rates by an average of $5.78 per month per user.

Prior to the unanimous vote on the budget, Finance Director Lynn Robinson said the $470,577 increase included personnel pay and retention increases of 2.5 percent and benefits such as the 11 percent hike in health insurance, for a total of $224,000.

Council member Al Hovey-King noted that the 2.5 percent increase in personnel expenditures represented an adjustment to the whole pay and retention plan and reflected more than a pay increase.

Robinson said other increases will go to higher jail costs at $160,000 and another $113,000 for increased 911 costs. A final increase totaling $37,000 goes for nine firefighter positions as part of a SAFER Grant. The grant, Robinson said, pays 90 percent of the salaries, leaving the city responsible for the remaining 10 percent, or $37,000. Grant funds per year will diminish over time, Robinson said.

Showing a $65,000 decrease over last year was debt service and supply costs, said Robinson. She said the budget contains no new positions, adding that vacant positions remain frozen from last year.

Robinson suggested that the millage rate be kept to 2.99 mills. Though the issue was not discussed, such a move would likely trigger a small net tax increase given the city’s meager 2.5 percent estimated growth.

Unlike in recent years, the 2002 digest growth of 2.5 percent is dramatically different from the 8.19 percent in 2007, the 8.64 percent in 2006 and more than 13 percent in 2004.

Robinson said sales tax revenue makes up 23.80 percent of the revenues, followed by 19.71 percent coming from property taxes and 15.38 percent in occupational and business taxes. On the expenditures side, Public Safety accounts for 63.01 percent of expenses while General Government accounts for 10.95 percent.

Also at the July 17 meeting council members heard the first reading relating to the third phase of water and sewer adjustments implemented in 2006. The final year of the increases affects sewer charges only. Phase 3 increases are due to the completion of the wastewater treatment plant, Robinson said.

The council in 2006 decided to phase in the cost of improvement to the public works system over a three-year period.

If approved in August, the increase would amount to an increase of $5.78 for the average bill, Robinson said. The base rate for residential customers would increase from $13.20 to $15.95, from $11.22 to $13.56 for seniors and from $25.20 to $27.95 for businesses. The usage charge for all categories would increase from $2.30 to $2.85 per 1,000 gallons over the 2,000 gallon base, she said.

“We did this in three phases to meet our public works needs,” said Mayor Ken Steele in reference to more than $13 million in work on the wastewater treatment plant. “The debt service is coming due and we have to raise rates to pay that debt service.”

The Phase 3 increase to expected to be the last for the foreseeable future.

A look at all 12 city budget funds shows a total of $23.9 million. Aside from the $10.588 million General Fund, remaining funds include those such as the Water and Sewer Fund at $7.5 million, Solid Waste Fund at $760,000, Capital Projects Fund at $1.303 million, SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) Fund at $1.940 million, Impact Fee Fund at $714,040, Main Street Tourism Fund at $542,000, Downtown Development Authority at $280,044, Hotel/Motel Tax Fund at $115,523, Vehicle Rental Excise Tax Fund at $60,000, Cemetery Fund at $41,150 and the Confiscated Assets Funds at $31,000.

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