The Covington News - - Local news -

“It was an­tic­i­pated rev­enue that was not there,” Fox said. “We’ve had lit­er­ally zero [new houses]. We fig­ured that we would have at least 25.”

The city also had some ad­di­tional un­ex­pected per­son­nel ex­penses this year when the city coun­cil, in a con­tentious de­ci­sion at the beginning of the year, voted to not reap­point the city clerk, Shari Steven­son.

Coun­cil­man Robert Fox­worth, who led the charge to not reap­point Steven­son, said it was be­cause of her work per­for­mance. In 2005, Steven­son re­ported Fox­worth for sex­ual ha­rass­ment af­ter an­other city em­ployee told her some of Fox­worth’s ac­tions were mak­ing her un­com­fort­able.

Be­cause Steven­son had been em­ployed with the city for five years, she had ac­cu­mu­lated some ben­e­fits that had to be paid out when she was not reap­pointed Fox said. Af­ter Steven­son’s de­par­ture, Fox said the city had to hire a temp ser­vice to help out around city hall — an­other un­bud­geted ex­pense.

Fi­nally, the re­cent an­nounce­ment by Gov. Sonny Per­due that he wanted to sus­pend the Home­owner Tax Re­lief Grant, a $428 mil­lion statewide pro­gram that re­im­burses lo­cal gov­ern­ments who pro­vide a homestead tax ex­emp­tion, is also fac­tored into the city’s bud­get short­fall.

Fox said the city was ex­pect­ing to be re­im­bursed from $26,000 to $30,000 through the pro­gram. While other lo­cal gov­ern­ments are wait­ing to see if the Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture and the gov­er­nor can come up with a com­pro­mise on the home­owner grant pro­gram, Fox said Por­terdale was as­sum­ing they would not and the re­im­burse­ment from the state would not be com­ing.

Prop­erty tax bills for the city will go out in Oc­to­ber.

Fox said he was com­pil­ing a list of rec­om­men­da­tions for the coun­cil of ways they could cut back on ex­penses. He will be pre­sent­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions to the coun­cil at their coun­cil meet­ing on Mon­day.

“What they’ve asked me to do is go through the city bud­get and look for items that could be cut or sus­pended in or­der to lower the amount of money that’s needed to bal­ance the bud­get from con­tracted ser­vices,” Fox said. “We’ve just got to look at all of the items.”

In a per­fect world, Fox said the city would be able to fund its deficit by spread­ing the short­fall around its prop­erty tax di­gest. How­ever be­cause the city has such a small prop­erty tax base, it would mean dou­bling the city’s mill­age rate.

The city em­ploys about 20 peo­ple Fox said. Por­terdale’s 2008 bud­get is $1,029,000 so the $200,000 short­fall makes up nearly 20 per­cent of their bud­get.

In the past sev­eral years the city has in­creased per­son­nel ex­penses by turn­ing a part-time po­lice of­fi­cer po­si­tion into a full-time po­si­tion and cre­at­ing a part-time bet­ter down­town man­ager po­si­tion.

“ We’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in­creased costs — fuel costs, health in­sur­ance costs, gen­eral li­a­bil­ity costs. All those are in­creas­ing, and they’re driv­ing the bud­get up,” Fox said. “Fuel prices have re­ally just kind of blown the bud­get in those cat­e­gories. That was the thing that we didn’t an­tic­i­pate.”

In other Por­terdale news, the city coun­cil is con­sid­er­ing put- ting in place an or­di­nance that would pe­nal­ize res­i­dents who wear their baggy pants too low.

“Some of our elected of­fi­cials have got­ten com­plaints,” Fox said. “Mainly it’s teenagers or young peo­ple wear­ing their pants so they’re ex­pos­ing their un­der­wear. It’s of­fen­sive to other cit­i­zens.”

Fox said the coun­cil has di­rected the city’s at­tor­ney to look into the fea­si­bil­ity of writ­ing an or­di­nance that would re­quire res­i­dents not to wear their pants too low.

“I think the or­di­nance would have to be care­fully re­searched and pass con­sti­tu­tional muster be­fore we would ac­tu­ally move to adopt it,” Fox said.

If such an or­di­nance is passed, Fox said it would fall on the city’s po­lice depart­ment to en­force it.

Por­terdale res­i­dent Gigi Shinall said she was in fa­vor of the city pass­ing a baggy pants or­di­nance.

“I think it’s very in­ap­pro­pri­ate that the un­der­wear is hang­ing out,” Shinall said. “I think kids need to be taught that they should dress proper.”

The Sa­van­nah City Coun­cil and the At­lanta City Coun­cil are also con­sid­er­ing or­di­nances ban­ning baggy pants that ex­pose one’s rear, ac­cord­ing to the Sa­van­nah Morn­ing News.

Fox said the city at­tor­ney may have some­thing to bring be­fore the coun­cil at their Mon­day meet­ing on the pro­posed or­di­nance.

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