Aragon cuts mayor spending power, approves fiscal 2019 budget
The Aragon City Council has decided to make an adjustment to the amount that Mayor Garry Baldwin can spend at one time without having to ask for their permission ahead of what turned out to be one of the most contentious meetings in the history of the municipality’s board.
The city administration can now only spend up to $1,000 – down from a limit of $1,750 set by a previous council and administration – after the council voted unanimously to approve the change as a belt-tightening measure.
Council member Debbie Pittman requested the change, asking for it since “everyone is having to tighten up their budget this year” in an effort to curb expenditures overall.
The other council members went along with an initial proposal of cutting it down to $500, but Council Member Judd Fee thought $1,000 would be appropriate to give Baldwin some leeway in case an emergency purchase is needed.
The policy was fine with Public Works Superintendent Daniel Johnson, since his department was the one to be most impacted by the change since they are the ones most likely to use funds on a daily basis when in the middle of projects.
He explained that he might get into the middle of a repair and not realize his need for additional materials or a missing part, but if that expenditure was over $200 he would have to make that request before Baldwin, and anything over the $500 threshold would likely require the council be informed anyhow.
Their decision came along with the approval of the 2019 fiscal year budget – balanced between revenues and expenditures at $912,450 for the coming year.
Council members unanimously approved revenues from taxes of $576,000, along with $205,000 from fines and forfeitures, $39,700 from licenses and permits, $87,050 from charges for services, and around $5,000 for contributions and donations, investment income and miscellaneous revenue.
The expenditures will mainly fall into three categories of major spending. Included in that is $156,948 for city administrators salaries and health care expenses, $56,881 to run city hall, $46,800 to pay Rick Astley for his financial work, $1,250 in costs for “safety risk management” and salaries for the council and mayor totaling up to $47,120.
Court costs will total up to $101,571, the Aragon Police Department will require $280,188 to run, and Public Works is seeking $191,042 to operate.
The council additionally approved expenditures of $20,580 for recreation, and $10,070 for code enforcement.
This comes as the FY 2018 budget starts to wind down. The council in 2017 approved revenues and expenditures of $872,335, and as of May 2018 were coming in a little short in revenue and getting close to going over on expenditures.
Revenues were coming in lower than expected on taxes, fines and forfeitures, and charges for services in May, but the year wasn’t over yet and those figures may come in higher when reports are provided in August.
However well above what was expected came in for licenses and permits, with the city generating through May more than $37,228 for the year compared to the $12,700 expected.
Costs were nearing the overrun point for several areas. The city council had a budget item of $89,680 for the fiscal year in 2018, but by May had actually cost $96,743. That includes salaries and training costs for new members.
Additionally, spending on the city hall building had already beaten the budget for the year, with costs expected at $55,800, but actually sat at $60,894 as of the end of May. The police department was over budget as well, with some $232,030 expected when the budget was made for the year, but as of May sat at $253,025. Sanitation costs were also up, with a budgeted figure of $134,600 well over the annual expenditure at $162,738.
The city does seek to cut some $50,200 from council spending, and another $18,049 in court spending from the budgeted figures in FY 2018 versus FY 2019.
That still leaves the city expecting more taxes and licenses and permits – by about $30,000 each – to come in and cover a total increase of more than $40,000 from what was budgeted last year, and was close to going over.
As of May, they were about $36,000 from meeting budgeted figures for the year in revenues and expenditures.
The figures from June didn’t look much better. They were just over $80,000 under from where they should be as the unaudited figures were presented to the council, which they also approved unanimously.
That report put the ending actual revenues at $870,577 for the year, compared to the $871,235 expected overall.
Shortfalls came in court fees, which were expected to hit the $205,000 mark but came in at $179,699 instead. Fines and forfeitures were down for the year as well. Much of the makeup with those figures came in the form of taxes, which busted expectations and came in for the year end at $563,081.
Administrative costs remained under budget along with several other areas of use, but sanitation, police and city hall costs did not help balance the budget expenditures, which ended with $950,775 in spending.
Those figures haven’t yet been confirmed by an audit.
Expenditures in the past months have outpaced revenue by a wide margin, with the exception of June when more funds came in and broke a three month trend that at its height was up above $150,000 in costs during the month of May. Expenditures have overall exceeded revenue since the beginning of the last fiscal year, and at one point that saw the city’s bank accounts drop below the $40,000 mark for the general fund in December 2017, and has remained under $80,000 since.
Added to that is an increase in outflows of the city’s special assets account. The fund started at more than $200,000 to account for the sale of SPLOSTpurchased (Special Purpose, Local Option Sales Tax fund) fire equipment and more sold during former Mayor Ken Suffridge’s tenure in office.
That account is well below where it once was, sitting at less than $40,000 as of the middle of last month.
Though everyone will be belt tightening in the coming months, the city will continue to look toward generating revenue via SPLOST.
Baldwin presented and the council approved with a unanimous vote their resolution to get the 2020 SPLOST extension on the ballot this November.
They were the first municipality to jump on board a plan to put the extension before voters in November, asking for $32 million in collections between 2020 and 2026. It would extend the life of the SPLOST locally, which was last approved in 2014.
Council members also approved a new film ordinance after a second reading, a variance for Bobby Gibbs to rebuild a smaller structure than is usually allowed at 5 W. Aragon Road, and approved the community-wide yard sale coming up on Aug. 4. (See more online.)
No bids were taken for the Nissan Quest minivan up for auction, with a minimum purchase price at $2,000.
Mayor Garry Baldwin (left) was under fire from council members on Thursday night following the resignations of Chief Brad Loyd and K-9 Officer Gene Brown on July 16 and July 14, respectively.