City staff presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget to the Woodstock City Council during its meeting on Monday.
The city has set its budget for the next fiscal year at $30.7 million, up from the current $27.5 million budget.
City Manager Jeff Moon said the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July is based upon the city absorbing half of the 4.76 percent decline the city saw in its property tax digest. The other half, he said, could be accounted for in a slight millage rate increase, which the council would have to approve.
The city’s millage rate is now 7.29 and staff is recommending the city increase the rate to a “rollback rate” of 7.58 mills. A house valued at $200,000, with the standard $5,000 exemption pays about $545 in city property taxes under the current rate. With the new rate, a homeowner who saw an increase in property values would pay roughly $569 in property taxes.
However, Moon said the rollback rate would result in many property owners seeing their tax bills drop because of the digest’s decline. He said a revenue-neutral millage rate increase would amount to no change in a homeowner’s property tax bill because the millage rate increase would fully account for the digest’s drop.
The council is set to consider the second reading and final approval during its meeting next Monday. The budget includes no furloughs, layoffs or salary increases.
“All the easy cuts have been made at this point,” Moon said, adding this was the fourth year in which the city’s general fund has taken a hit because of a decline in property values.
The general fund is projected at $15.1 million, down slightly from the $15.2 million set for the present fiscal year. The city used $5,000 in tree bank reserves and budgeted $250,000 in contingencies.
The city, which has about 200 employees, eliminated its receptionist position and instead, the part-time administrative assistant in the information technology and finance departments will also serve as the receptionist.
Moon also said the city used about $25,000 in overtime savings to hire one person as a wastewater treatment plant operator.
Cut from the proposed budget is the Parks and Recreation Department’s softball program, which Moon said the city loses money on each year. Moon also said that department made roughly $500,000 in requests in upgrades at Dupree Park and another $500,000 to put in fencing and developing a trail head at the proposed Dog Park along Dupree Road.
The city also held off on a request for money to build mountain bike trails on the north side of Little River at the Taylor Randahl Memorial Mountain Bike Trails at Olde Rope Mill Park.
Other proposed funds include the water and sewer fund at $9.5 million; $1.5 million for the stormwater fund; $222,125 in hotel/motel tax proceeds; $436,595 in its tax allocation district fund; $585,000 in capital equipment fund; $300,000 in impact fees; $32,555 in its SPLOST II account; $555,599 in its SPLOST III account; and $2.5 million in its SPLOST IV account.
The city has $500,000 in reserves for its general fund, Chief Financial Officer Robert Porche said.
City Council members said they were impressed by the city staff’s ability to weather the continued decline in property tax values.
Councilman Bud Leonard said he was comfortable with the staff’s proposal. He said the staff has worked diligently to slash the figures to make up for the digest decline.
“The reality of it is we have to work with what we have,” he said.
When asked whether he would support the millage rate increases, Leonard said he wants to keep the rate as low as possible, but added the council has to keep the city solvent.
Councilman Chris Casdia said he did not want to commit to whether he would vote to raise the millage rate and he wants to see what other cuts the city can make before deciding how he stands on the issue. He also praised the staff’s diligence, saying the city has even cut out coffee service for its employees.
“The city staff is doing a great job,” he said. “Each year, we see the digest shrinks. Revenues are going down each year and they are dealing with it.”
The Woodstock City Council also:
* Heard from Public Works Director Pat Flood, who said the city plans to turn the intersection of Molly Lane and Highway 92 to a no U-turn intersection to prevent accidents;
* Approved a preliminary contract with LAI Engineering for phase three of the Ridgewalk Parkway widening from the intersection of its future intersection with Woodstock Parkway to Ridge Trail in the amount of $49,400;
* Tabled until July 9 a request from Residential Group, LLC, to rezone 17.5 acres of property along Highway 92 east of Main Street and Laurelwood Drive from downtown commercial and low density residential to downtown multi-family residential;
* Tabled consideration of an appeal by Georgia Outdoor Railroad, LLC, of a sign permit denial;
* Approved allowing Horizon Outlet Group to perform early concrete pours between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m.; and
* Approved a request from Walton Communities to perform early concrete pours between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m.
The council met in executive session to discuss real estate, personnel and litigation, but took no action upon returning.
Mayor Donnie Henriques was not present.