Acworth officials are proposing an $11.4 million budget, a 1.6 percent increase from the current budget of $11.2 million.
The first public hearing for the budget, which runs from July 1 through June 30, 2014, will be tonight at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. It will be followed by a regular meeting of the mayor and Board of Aldermen at 7 p.m.
City Manager Brian Bulthuis said the budget, which includes only the general fund, is projected to be slightly higher than the previous year because the city eliminated some of its debt and anticipates receiving extra money from the recent change in the ad valorem car tax that went into effect March 1.
“We’re anticipating this first year, because of the change over, there will be a little extra,” Bulthuis said.
Under the new tax, people who purchased and titled a vehicle between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 1, 2013, may be eligible to opt into the new tax system.
City Treasurer Sharron Burtz said she anticipates more residents will be opting in initially, but that the revenue will level out in coming years.
The only city fee to increase this year is for garbage collection, which will rise 60 cents per month, from $19 per household to $19.60.
Bulthuis said the increase is because gas prices have gone up, along with the cost of dumping waste.
The anticipated budget expenses are approximately $11.4 million in fiscal 2014. The final amended budget for the current year shows revenues of $11.2 million and expenditures of $11.2 million.
The city’s reserve fund will stay virtually the same at $2.9 million by the end of the upcoming fiscal year.
“We’re projecting a small surplus,” Bulthuis said.
With the projected increase, the city expects to maintain its 161 full-time employees and has no plans to make cuts to any services or programs. The millage rate of 7.6 also will go unchanged pending board approval next month.
Tonight’s public hearing is the first of two, with the second hearing just before the Board of Aldermen will vote on the budget on June 20.
Employee raises still in question
Bulthuis said the city plans to wait until the end of the calendar year to evaluate health insurance costs and the local tax digest to determine whether city employees will get a raise.
The tax digest is the total amount of revenue that comes into the city from property taxes.
“If we can keep health insurance numbers down, then we’ll be looking to use any savings to possibly give raises,” Bulthuis said.
Mayor Tommy Allegood said the potential increase hinges on where the city ends up with health care costs so he could not say what the raises could amount to.
Allegood said he’s in favor of the proposed budget because it’s balanced.
“Most importantly, we don’t have to raise anybody’s property taxes to augment any shortages,” Allegood said.
Over the last 15 years, the city has lowered its millage rate from 7.9 percent to 7.6 percent and is still able to maintain a high level of services, Allegood said.
Bulthuis said the city’s major focus for the coming year is allocating SPLOST funds for capital improvement projects, including a proposed $3.8 million police station.