City Council approves FY 2020 budget

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Bainbridge City Council adopted the fiscal year 2020 budget that will fund the city’s capital needs and return funds to the city’s reserves, according to City Manager Chris Hobby.

Throughout the past year, there have been devastating blows, such as Hurricane Michael, but Hobby pointed out that it has also been a year of economic growth; some of the growth can even be attributed to the hurricane. Hotel-Motel tax collections, sales tax collections and construction industry are just a few of the growth indicators from the hurricane.

The main growth came from Taurus Holdings, Inc., which will add 300 new jobs to the community and only continue to bring local employment and other franchises into the area.

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Hotel-Motel taxes increased 53 percent over the 2018 levels. While some of this was post-hurricane, related most of the hotels and motels have kept a steady flow of traffic and are maintaining a 75 percent occupancy level, meaning Bainbridge is ready for another hotel development, according to Hobby’s research.

Occupational taxes increased by 13 percent, indicating that the local business climate is favorable for new business development and that the Rural Tax program is working in the City’s Central Business District.

Alcohol taxes also saw a modest 5 percent increase, proving the food and beverage sector is growing as is evidenced by the new “brew pub” establishment.

With more money being collected, the City was able to complete a Pay and Classification Study by the Carl Vinson Institute for Government. The study found that the average raise is 4.53 percent, and the City has fully implemented these raises into the new budget. The starting pay for a Public Safety Cadet will increase from $29,266 to $32,630 and the entry-level pay for an officer will increase from $31,491 to $35,975. Under this new study, the city’s lowest starting hourly rate will be $11.73

While the study was being conducted, the City realized the staff is too lean and in order to adequately fulfill public service responsibilities, they would need additional personnel. They have added five employees in the Public Services Street Department and two employees in the Parks Department, a City Horticulturist in the Parks Department and a City Engineer in the Community Development Division. The combined cost of these new positions is $488,769.03

In order to help with these new costs and help maintain a healthy financial footing in the City’s General Fund, they will be increasing the water, sewer and sanitation rates.

They plan to raise the water per 1,000 gallons to $2.80 and the sewer per 1,000 gallons to $3.80. These rates, even after the increases, are still competitive within the region.

The final major change in the budget was a reduction in the distribution of the Title Ad Valorem Tax revenue as a result of HB 329. Hobby expects the City will be adversely affected by the bill and estimates the taxes to decrease by 20 percent.

Noting these changes, the City adopted the budget and is planning to continue to deliver exciting results with these new budget modifications.