City to meet for last time in 2017
By Beth Alston
AMERICUS — The Americus Mayor and City Council, in the last meeting of 2017, at 5 p.m. Thursday, will adopt the budget for 2018, among other business.
Chief financial officer, Diadra Powell, gave an overview of the budget at the agenda-setting meeting of Dec. 14.
The 2018 proposed budget is approximately $31.9 million, approximately $1,055,200 more than 2017. The increase is related to salary and benefits, as well as capital items, according to Powell. Salaries account for 20 percent of the total of all expenditures which include a 3 percent cost of living, budgeted increase. Benefits such as insurance, Social Security, retirement and worker’s compensation account for 8 percent of the budget.
Powell said the city’s health insurance costs continue to decline since the Wellness Program was implemented.
Three additional employees are proposed in the new budget. The plan includes 187 positions (171 full-time, seven elected officials and nine part-time. The additional personnel are a license and tax technician, staff accountant, chief building inspector and moving one part-time employee to a full-time position. Powell said the city shop moved one auto mechanic and the grounds and maintenance superintendent position was removed.
Capital outlay projects for non-enterprise funds account for 17 percent of the projected expenditures, including funded projects identified in the 2014 SPLOST referendum, and street improvements funded by TSLPOST and LMIG grant funds.
Other operating expenses (salaries, benefits and capital projects) account for 55 percent of the projected expenditures. These include the cost of utility operations, materials, supplies, utilities, contract services, and repair and maintenance for vehicles, equipment, etc.
In the area of utilities, the base rate for water is projected to remain the same and the usage rate remains the same at $2.32 per 100 cubic feet. The base rate for sewer is projected to remain the same. However, the methodology of billing for sewer services changed in 2016. The approved method, beginning in 2016, is to bill sewer based on the actual water consumption each month. The rates for garbage service will increase 3 percent for 2018, for both commercial dumpster and residential hobo services. Landfill post-closure costs are estimated to be $80,000 in 2018, which is the same as in 2017. Gas rates for 2018 will be market price plus the existing margin. There is not a margin increase planned. No increase in storm water rates is planned.
In the area of property tax, the millage rate is projected to remain the same as the 2017 millage rate of 10.32.
Broken out buy department, the 2018 budget is as follows:
Mayor & Council * $ 1,310,421
Data Center $ 245,225
GIS $ 162,598
Finance $ 656,934
Human Resources $ 295,216
City Manager $ 302,715
Rees Park EDC $ 28,832
Fire $ 3,912,732
Police $ ,3312,979
Planning & Inspections $ 328,159
Municipal Court $ 104,025
Street $ 863,900
Cemetery $ 44,319
Shop ** $ 221,879
Public Works $ 207,576
Grounds & Maintenance $ 661,282
Water & Sewer Fund $ 7,111,832
Natural Gas Fund $ 2,630,719
Solid Waste Fund $ 2,786,566
Storm Water Fund $ 588,217
SPLOST $ 3,408,100
TSPLOST $ 215,810
Grant & Misc. Funds $ 2,495,332
Total $ 31,895,368
* Mayor & Council includes $798,376 for support of various community entities.
**All of the Shop Department, except capital, salary and benefits are charged out to other City departments.
The second of three public hearings on the 2018 budget was also held Thursday.
In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the honorary council member of the month, Raven Payne, will be recognized. Kathie Mercer has requested and received permission to speak to the council concerning inappropriate behavior of police officers that visited her home.
Items on the consent agenda include:
- Property tax write down in the amount of $19,782.97.
- Resolution approving contracts for service effective Jan. 1 which includes tourism and Main Street in the amount of $798,376.
- Miscellaneous accounts receivable write down in the amount of $38,907.05.
- Utility bill write down in the amount of $79,245.76.
- Resolution approving the appropriation certificate for the GMA lease payments in 2018.
- Approval of radio maintenance bid from Albany Communications in the amount of $68 per month for 2018.
- Approval of pest control bid in the amount of $335 per month from Barfield Services for 2018.
- Approval of fuel purchase from Perry Brothers Oil for 2018.
- Approval of bid in the amount of $597,954 from Ten-8 for the purchased of a new fire engine, which replaces a 22-year-old unit.
- Approval of purchase of hazardous material equipment in the amount of $18,788.47.
- Approval of a list of approximately 42 pieces equipment to be surplused.
- Approval of a list of streets to be resurfaced from funds from a Georgia Department of Transportation LMIG.
- Approval of bid from Brannen Ford in the amount of $31,972 each for six SUVs (total $191,832) for the police department to replace the six oldest units.
- Approve alcohol beverage licenses for sale off premises to new managers at Wal-mart, CVS Pharmacy, Food Lion, Maruit Food Market, and Murphy Express.
- Appointment of the Americus Times-Recorder as the legal gazette for the city for 2018.
- Approve a resolution appointing J. Michael Greene as Municipal Court judge for 2018.
- Approve staff to move forward with a plan and layout design for the Downtown Streetscape project. Funding for the traffic study was provided by One Sumter and Georgia DOT has given initial approval for changing traffic from three to two lanes on Lamar Street between the bridges near U.S. Highway 19 and Prince Street. This is part of the RVP (Renaissance Strategic Visioning Plan) previously adopted by the city.
One item was voted on during the Dec. 14 meeting. The council must pass a resolution each year establishing the dates and times for the agenda setting and regular meetings. Council member Nelson Brown still wants the meetings moved to 6 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. Council member Daryl Dowdell agreed saying that 5 p.m. doesn’t allow people time to get off work and attend the meetings. Mayor Barry Blount suggested waiting until after Jan. 1 to take a vote when two council members will be replaced with two new ones. Council member Shirley Green Reese stated that she and Council member Carla Cook, who also will not be returning after Jan. 1, have a right to vote on the matter now.
Brown moved to change the meeting times to 6 p.m., which was seconded by Council member Juanita Wilson. Those voting for the change were Brown, Wilson and Dowdell. Those voting against were Reese, Cook and Council member Lou Chase. The mayor broke the tie by voting against. The time will remain at 5 p.m.
Items on the agenda for Thursday include the following:
- A second reading of the fee ordinance amendment for 2018.
- A first reading of an amendment to the personnel ordinance related to classification and pay grade adjustments.
- Consider renewal of the 2018 list for alcohol beverage license holders.
- Council will also consider several appointments to various boards and authorities.
- Council will elect a new mayor pro tem. Brown questioned how this is done to which the mayor responded that it is done on a rotating basis. Brown suggested that council needs to establish a protocol for mayor pro tem selection. City attorney Jimmy Skipper stated that it rotates on the basis of seniority but criteria needs to be something else. “Seniority plus something else,” he said.
Also on Thursday, Superior Court Chief Judge Rucker Smith will swear in the council members, including the new ones, Kelvin Pless and Charles Christmas.
The mayor will present a proclamation honoring Council members Cook and Reese for their years of service. A reception honoring the two is from 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday in the lobby of the Russell Thomas Jr. Public Safety Building, hosted by the City of Americus, and open to the public.