Friday, April 11, 2014
The Georgetown City Council on Tuesday was given a first draft of a proposed 2014-2015 budget that calls for a $5.4 million increase in city spending, with a greater proportion of the city's budget devoted to capital projects.
In the council's first workshop on the 2014-15 budget, City Administrator Chris Carter presented council members with a 30-page budget overview he said “is meant to be a frame for our new budget and covers the broad issues.”
Under the draft proposed budget, the city's spending would increase from $31,071,960 in the current 2013-2014 fiscal year to $36,482,092 in 2014-2105, with a greater share of the budget going to capital projects and less to personnel and operating costs. Carter walked council members through a Power Point presentation showing that under the current budget, operations account for 55 percent of the city's spending; personnel 31 percent; and capital projects 14 percent. Under the draft proposed budget, operations costs would account for 46 percent; personnel 27 percent; and capital projects 27 percent.
Council members did have some reservations about the broad budget document they saw on Tuesday.
After seeing that $300,000 had been earmarked for The Broad Street Streetscape, Councilwoman Peggy Wayne said, “I'd like to see what it will look like before I vote to approve three hundred thousand dollars.” Carter and Director of Finance Debra Bivens assured the council that a portion of the $300,000 would be spent on a proposal that would give a clear picture of the street's future look. They also pointed out that there would be plenty of time for discussing specific issues in future budget workshops.
Employee contributions to health insurance sparked the longest discussion of the afternoon. Mr. Carter notified the council of a 28% premium increase for the city's health insurance plan. With most of the council weighing in, there was a general consensus the council would not support an increase in employee contributions to their health care plans. Councilman Rudolph Bradley went so far as to say, “We need to make sure that our guys and ladies on the lower end of the totem pole don't lose any of their income due to an adjustment in their health insurance cost.” Agreeing, Councilman Ed Kimbrough Jr. responded, “This is a benefit that we should be honored to pay for, and if we have to pay for it, then we will figure it out.” When asked to respond to the council's reaction, Mr. Carter replied, “There will plenty of time for the city to debate how this cost will ultimately fall out.”
Carter told the council there has been increase in revenue in the past year from two specific sources. The police department was credited with a $30,000 increase in revenue from fines, and there has been increased revenue from aggressive enforcement of business tax collections.
Carter said the working document reflected the city administration's recommendations, and at the close of the workshop, council members were presented with a draft budget that included line-item spending for city departments and functions that they will review before the next workshop.
Council members were encouraged to meet individually with City Administrator Chris Carter and Director of Finance Debra Bivens to gain further knowledge on the budget. The expanded draft budget will be available online at the end of this week. The next budget workshop is scheduled for April 22, and is open to the public. The next regular City Council meeting will be Thursday, April 17 at 5:30 p.m.