Aragon cuts mayor spend­ing power, ap­proves fis­cal 2019 bud­get

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­nal.net

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.

/ Kevin Myrick

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.

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