Toccoa Presents Proposed FY 2014 Budget

The city of Toccoa presents its proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Toccoa City Commissioners held a first reading and public hearing on the proposed budget at their meeting Monday.

City commissioners also discussed that budget during a work session prior to the meeting. During the work session, Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson presented an overview of the budget.

Jackson said the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget is larger than the current year’s budget.

“The total budget, as proposed at this point, is just a hair over $32 million,” said Jackson. “That is an increase of $2.2 million or 7.49 percent over the current year that we are in.”

According to Jackson, much of the increase in this year’s proposed budget can be attributed to the gas and water funds.

Jackson said the proposed gas fund budget for Fiscal Year 2014 shows a 17.65 percent increase.

“That is an increase of almost $1.9 million over this current budget year,” said Jackson. “We have the Highway 17 relocation, so the expenses and the reimbursement revenues for that are both in these figures.”

According to Jackson, the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia also projected slightly higher budgeted revenues overall for the gas department in the upcoming fiscal year.

As for the water fund, Jackson said the proposed budget includes a 7.16 percent increase.

Jackson said that an increase in the water rate for county customers only resulted in about $457,000 in additional revenue for the city and accounts for much of the increase in the budget.

“$457,000 of the $464,000 (total budgeted increase) was that water rate increase,” said Jackson.

The budget presented Monday proposes no change in the millage rate.

The only rate changes in the budget are those commissioners already approved two weeks ago. One of those is a 3-cent-per unit hike on gas bills in order to pay for relocating utility lines as part of the Highway 17 construction project. The other rate change increases the water rate for a county customer across the board to 1.25 times the rate of a city customer.

City officials said that for the average residential gas customer, a bill will increase by about $1.50 to $1.75 per month, depending on how much gas one uses. City officials said the gas rate hike will go away once the Highway 17 project is paid off, possibly in about a year.

Meanwhile on the water side, the city said a county residential water customer’s bill will increase by $4.28 per month when assuming an average monthly water use of just under 4,300 gallons.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes no new personnel, but does provide funding for salary increases.

However, Jackson said instead of an across-the-board increase, he wants the city to focus pay increases towards those on the lower end of the city’s pay scale, as well as implement merit-based increases.

“One is to bring those lower-paid people up,” said Jackson. “They need to be brought up. The other (thing) is to be able to have a pool from which you can reward your high performers.”

The proposed budget also includes funding for some vehicle replacements in the city’s fleet, as well as for investing in compressed natural gas vehicle technology.

Overall, Jackson said he commends the city staff for the work they have put in on this budget.

“We have made some really good progress in the past couple of years with our budget process and our budget document,” said Jackson.

Nobody spoke during a public hearing on the budget, which will be available for review at Toccoa City Hall.

The city commission will hold a second reading and is expected to vote on the budget at its next meeting on May 20.