City hopeful for boosted revenues

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Although City of Bainbridge officials are remaining cautious in their fiscal planning for next year, the city’s proposed 2013-2014 fiscal year projects an approximately 2.2 percent growth of revenue, based on expectations that the local economy is growing.

The proposed budget predicts $182,325 will be collected from the city’s Hotel/Motel tax next year, an $37,195 increase over projections for current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Proceeds from the tax are based on how many rooms are rented out each month in the city’s lodgings.

The budget also predicts an increase in fines and forfeitures, the money the city gets from payment of traffic and misdemeanor citations, as well from money seized as part of a successful drug investigation. Actual figures for 2011-2012 show $477,208 was collected in fines and forfeitures. The projected total for this year is $580,300 and the projected figure for 2013-2014 is $660,526.

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“Those two figures are admittedly the biggest stretches from current numbers,” City Manager Chris Hobby said. “Both are optimistic but achievable.”

Referring to the hotel/motel tax receipts, Hobby said they have been trending upward and pointed to announced plans for a new hotel off U.S. 27 South as possibly contributing for next year. The city uses hotel/motel funds primarily to fund tourism promotion efforts, which can stimulate the economy, but also, a small percentage of the funds can be applied to the city’s general fund under state law.

In regards to an expected increase in fines and forfeitures, Hobby said that projection assumes a full roster of Public Safety officers, which had been understaffed before the arrival of new BPS Director Eric Miller. With the aim of cutting positions through attrition, the city government has already implemented a hiring freeze throughout all city departments, with the exception of Public Safety.

Meanwhile, other sources of revenue are projected to be pretty much flat next year. Taxes from all sources, which brought in $5.587 million in 2011-2012, are expected to be just $5.574 million this year and lower at $5.683 million next year.

That total includes an estimated $1.2 million in property taxes, $1.84 million from the local option sales tax, $633,341 from the insurance premium tax, $370,000 from the alcoholic beverage license tax, $355,067 in occupational taxes and $260,000 in vehicle taxes.

Private utility companies will pay a projected $978,982 in franchise taxes, with are calculated based on their number of customers within city limits.

“Last year was the first time I can remember the franchise tax ever decreasing, so we hope there won’t be two years of that,” Hobby said. “We have seen signs the economy is improving, such as new business starts and new investments over the past year.”

Once much higher after the boom of new businesses along U.S. 27 South in the mid-2000s, building and construction permits contribute a relatively paltry $40,000-$45,000 annually.

The city also expects to collect $238,739 in charges for services, mostly from recreational facility fees and concession sales.

The city’s water, sewer natural gas and solid waste funds continue to be healthy, in the view of the city manager, although utility rates will go up 1.7 percent this year, because local ordinance states they must be tied to the annual rate of economic inflation.

The Bainbridge City Council listened to Hobby present the highlights of the annual budget at its Sept. 3 meeting and also held a first public hearing on the budget at that time. The City Council will take a final vote on the proposed 2013-2014 budget at its regular meeting on Sept. 19.