City’s new budget contains new positions, utility rate increases

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The City of Bainbridge’s proposed 2012-2013 Fiscal Year budget will introduce some new faces to the city’s government, but also result in higher utility rates for residents.

The budget contains $24.9 million in expenses, up from $23.2 million last year. The budget also anticipates $25.8 million in revenue, up from $23.9 million last year.

The increased revenue is partially due to an predicted 3-to-4-percent increase in various revenue sources, including sales tax and utility franchise fees.

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However, it also represents across-the-board increases to city-provided utility rates.

The combined water and sewer base rate, now $10, would go up to $15. Volumetric usage rates would go up 1.07 percent, from $1.55 per 1,000 gallons to $1.61 per 1,000 gallons.

City Manager Chris Hobby said he estimates that the water and sewer rate increases will raise the average customer’s utility bill by $68.87 per year.

The garbage pickup fee would also increase 1.07 percent.

The natural gas base rate would increase slightly, from $4.95 to $5, while the usage fee would increase by 1.07 percent.

Hobby said the 1.07 percent increase to various utility usage rates reflects the annual inflation rate. The City Council had previously approved tying utility rates to inflationary costs.

The city manager said the budget proposes raising the water and sewer base rate in part due to increased state and federal government mandates, including expenses for water testing, the purchase of related laboratory equipment and implementation of water conservation measures.

The water and sewer rate increases also satisfy concerns that the Georgia Environmental Facility Authority — which the city borrowed from to pay for the fast-track completion of its sewer master plan — has about shallow fund reserves.

“They didn’t feel that we were financially strong enough to be able to meet our debt requirements, if for some reason voters didn’t renew SPLOST, which we use to repay our loan,” Hobby said.

The new budget would also reflect a more indepdendent status for the Downtown Development Authority, which previously operated as a city function but will now have its own board.

“We will still fund the DDA’s budget; however, they will have their own board of directors, which will decide how to spend that money,” Hobby said.

Amanda Glover, who formerly served as director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Division, has been appointed executive director of the DDA.

The city has hired Roy Oliver, who has retail store management experience, to replace Glover in her former position, Hobby said.

Due to state government advice, the city has also hired local attorney Ryan Cleveland to serve as City Court Solicitor, at a rate of $2,000 per month.

City Court is held one to two days each month and handles violations of city ordinances, including minor traffic offenses and DUIs.

City Court Judge Josh Bell will get a raise to match the solicitor’s salary. However, to coincide with that raise, Hobby said he made a deal with Bell to consider allowing city prisoners to wear ankle bracelets and be confined to their homes, in lieu of being sent to the Pelham, Ga., city jail. Hobby said the new program would save money on inmate costs.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2012-2013 budget at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Potter Street Community Center.

The Council is scheduled to adopt the final version of the budget at its regular meeting on Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m., also on Potter Street.