Senoia council adopts $2.1 million budget for 2011

The Senoia City Council at its Dec. 6 meeting unanimously approved the city’s $2.1 million General Fund budget that will take effect in January. The budget was essentially flat, with an expected increase in revenues for 2011 totaling $24,600 over 2010.

As cited at a previous meeting, some of the budget categories that showed an increase included property taxes that are projected to increase by $77,200 as a result of limited construction during 2010, $3,000 in the rental of the Freeman Sasser facility and $27,000 from the recent sale of the old police department buildings to the Downtown Development Authority.

A number of budget categories showed a decrease in revenues over the current year, with many tied to the ongoing recession that continues to take a toll on development. Among those were a $22,000 projected decrease in zoning and land use revenues and $6,000 in business licenses.

City Administrator Richard Ferry in a presentation to the council noted the realities built in to the budget. Like other counties and municipalities across the region and the nation, the continuing recession has taken a toll on development and personal spending and the revenues that result.

“The city has been challenged by the continuing slump in the housing market. Permits in FY 2010 have decreased almost 40 percent compared to FY 2009. Though the tax digest has grown because of new construction in 2008 and 2009, the assessed value of the property has contracted leaving a gap when trying to provide services for the new growth,” Ferry said earlier. “The Local Option Sales Tax is projected to come in 10 percent under expected revenues and franchise fees are roughly 12 percent less than expected."

Ferry at the budget’s first reading in November noted that revenues for 2011 should nearly equal expenditures if current spending trends continue.
The city’s sewer fund, also reviewed in more detail in the November meeting, will be monitored throughout the year, Ferry said. That monitoring applies especially to debt service, Ferry added.

Noting that the fund is experiencing increasing costs and decreasing user fees, Ferry said the only line item that contains any flexibility is personnel, adding that the department is staffed with only three full-time employees.

“Most of the other line items are necessary to maintain the system. These include utility costs over $100,000, mandated testing and professional reports for EPD. Of the $648,800 budget, $319,900, or 48 percent, is for debt service,” Ferry said. “Though tap fees and connection fees can be used for system maintenance and operation, these fees should be put toward planning, growth and retiring debt. At this point they are clearly paying for operations.”

Ferry asked that consulting engineering firm G. Ben Turnipseed be contacted in January to review sewer rates to meet the costs of maintaining the system.
Another area to watch will be the water fund budget for which expenses are expected to increase 13 percent, or $91,000, Ferry said.

“The vast majority of this is in the improvements to the water plant required by the Georgia EPD (Environmental Protection Division) and a staff transfer from the Street Department to assist with water needs,” said Ferry. “The budget cost of chemicals has been absorbed into the budget but is still significant and the replacement and retrofit of old meters to the new and more efficient Sensus Radio Read Meters. These costs and improvements are proposed to be met within the user fees and connection fees.”