In order to roll back the millage rate, the city will need to use about $1 million from reserve funds and another $75,000 from the unassigned fund balance, Mayor Gene Hobgood said.
The move will leave about $2.5 million in the city’s reserves, according to City Manager Glen Cummins.
But the council also decided to make some reductions to the proposed $37.8 million budget.
The reductions included eliminating a $33,000 administrative assistant position for Hobgood, reducing maintenance for Etowah River Park by $50,000 and removing the UTV vehicles from the fire and police department budgets.
The city also plans to save about $130,000 in cash flow by refinancing the 2009 bond issue, Cummins said.
“The most amazing thing is the fact that we’re able to do what’s being done in this budget without a property tax increase,” Hobgood said. “It’s also interesting when you look at the general fund budget, the expenditures are up almost 14 percent over the projected expenditures the year before. That is a substantial increase. This is an opportunity now for us to be able to roll our millage rate back and still accomplish what we need to do.”
Some of the expenditures council members focused on during the budget review meeting were vehicles and educational training for the Canton Police Department. In order to provide take-home patrol cars for officers, the city will be committed to buying 11 vehicles over the next three years.
Cummins said this year, the city will purchase four Chevy Tahoe SUVs at $40,000 per vehicle, which will be fully equipped.
Council member Sandy McGrew was concerned the city was purchasing vehicles instead of the much needed bulletproof vests. However, Police Chief Robert Merchant said $8,500 is already budgeted for 10 new vests and 50 percent will be reimbursed by a federal grant.
“To me, their lives are more important than the vehicles they take home,” McGrew said.
McGrew also questioned why training and education expenditures increased to about $15,000. Merchant said about $10,500 will be set aside for a college reimbursement program.
“There are seven officers who have indicated they wanted to pursue a two-year degree. I’ve designated $1,500 per officer in order for them go back to school,” Merchant said.
Hobgood said he would like to have all city employees receive the opportunity for reimbursement if they decide to further their education, but more research will have to be done before a policy is put in place.
The public will have the opportunity to comment on any of the budget items during the first budget public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.