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City votes to raise millage rate to 13.12

By Beth Alston

 

AMERICUS — The Americus City Council voted unanimously to raise the millage rate from 10.92 to 13.12 for the remainder of the fiscal year; this cover a budget shortfall of approximately $569,000. This after much discussion during the Aug. 15 work session and Thursday night’s monthly meeting.

Prior to this vote came a presentation by the City’s Human Resources director, Dee Jones, who brought information on the proposed 4 percent merit increase and 3 percent cost-of-living increase for city employees beginning Jan. 1. Jones stressed to the council that these recommendations came from the salary study they had last year, and are necessary to continue to attract and retain quality employees. She also talked about a new software program, which will cost between $10,000 and $15,000, that will take the subjectivity out of determining who gets a merit increase.

Mayor Barry Blount commented that the millage rate had to be raised to cover the estimated shortfall and that the rate will have to be raised again next year to cover the salary increases. It is projected that the increase next year will be to 14.05. Council member Juanita Wilson was the one who spoke out, saying it is better to go ahead and raise it to 13.12 now “to pay 2019 bills.” Wilson made the motion which was seconded by Nelson Brown, and passed unanimously.

The last millage rate increase was in 2018, from 10.32 to 10.92.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the council voted to suspend the rules and approve a proposal for installation and enforcement of veterans-only parking spaces for the Municipal Building.

Council also decided on the restriping of Lamar Street which is to be done by the Georgia Department of Transportation early next year when Lamar and Forsyth streets are resurfaced. As part of the Renaissance Plan, approved by the city council several years ago, the plan will take Lamar Street from three lanes to two for the downtown retail zone and have angled parking on the south side of the street. Croy Engineering is doing the work at a cost of $37,000 which includes relocating some traffic signals. The total project will cost about $200,000 which will come from SPLOST revenues, according to City Manager Charles Coney.

Council member Lou Chase made the motion to accept the proposal, which was seconded by Kelvin Pless. It passed 5-1 with Chase, Pless, Charles Christmas, Juanita Wilson, and Nelson Brown voting for and Daryl Dowdell voting against. Almost immediately after, Brown stated he wanted to change his vote to “no,” because some of his concerns about the project had not been addressed.

Council also voted to approve a resolution authorizing partnership with HEAT Energy Assistance Team Inc. to allow local customers to assist low-income customers with their gas bills.