Marietta's budget to keep level of service steady
by Rachel Miller
June 02, 2013 10:31 PM | 1729 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recommended city budget for fiscal 2014 will have no service cuts or tax increases, but may include a pay raise for city employees.

The proposed general fund budget is $48.8 million, which is a 1.4 percent increase over last year, or $690,443 over the existing 2013 budget.

City Manager Bill Bruton said the reason for the increase in spending is rising fuel costs and expenses for the city’s fleet of vehicles, as well as the cost of the general election in November in which Mayor Steve Tumlin and the seven council members are up for election.

Bruton also said there was a “positive increase in the tourism funds that the city receives from auto rental and hotel occupancy.”

This additional revenue must be allocated to activities and organizations that promote and encourage tourism, Bruton said.

Bruton presented the balanced budget to City Council last week.

No changes were made at the committee meetings, and the council will vote on whether to give final approval June 12.

Councilwoman Annette Lewis said she is pleased that more than 60 percent of the budget is dedicated to services provided by the city, like the police and fire departments.

“That is what we are supposed to do is serve our citizens,” Lewis said.

There may be a 2 percent employee pay raise in January, depending on the economic outlook, Bruton said.

Overall cuts

The 2014 overall budget for the city is much larger, at approximately $290 million, because it includes federal programs, grant funds and the Board of Lights and Water, which runs the city’s utility operations.

Bruton said the overall budget will increase next year by $11.2 million because of new special purpose local option sales taxes and parks bond revenue that is being spent on approved projects.

Each year, the City Council transfers millions from the city utility fund to the general fund. The amount this year is expected to be $11.5 million.

The proposed budget has a reserve fund of $16.8 million.

Bruton said the general fund is $2 million less than it was four years ago because the operating expenses have reduced by 36 percent.

“Departmental operating expenses are actually being cut by $53,000,” Bruton said of the 2014 fiscal year.

For the 2013 fiscal year ending in June, the city will have a surplus of $300,000 to $500,000.

The allocation of those funds has yet to be decided.

Hiring freeze

The city currently employs 708 people, with 24 part-time positions.

Bruton said a selective hiring freeze leaves 45 positions open throughout the year, with some jobs being filled and others eliminated.

Bruton presented the council with a list of revised city positions that would take effect July 1.

For instance, he suggested eliminating the director of the Marietta Redevelopment Corporation, a job formerly held by Reggie Taylor, who resigned last year to become city manager of East Point in south Fulton County.

Instead, the city’s director of economic development, Beth Sessoms, will permanently fill the role for an annual savings of $88,441.

The city will also need to fill a position on the Board of Lights and Water after board member Harlon Crimm’s term expires July 11.

A position on that board pays $300 a month.

Councilmembers asked staff to advertise for the position so that interviews can start before the next round of committee meetings.

One item on Bruton’s report suggested removing the vacant Weed and Seed coordinator job for a savings of $60,008.

Councilman Philip Goldstein asked to discuss adding the position back for one year at the council’s meeting Monday.

Goldstein said he would like to find the funds to reinstate the program as part of the overall effort by council to address problems on Franklin Road.

The Weed and Seed project helped rebuild communities with high criminal activity by partnering residents with law enforcement.

The five-year effort on Franklin Road was mostly federally funded and ended in September 2011 when the national program stopped, according to the former coordinator, Daneea Badio of Acworth.

Badio said there are still programs on Franklin Road that originated through Weed and Seed.

Funding may have ended, but, “The money seeded into the community is still creating change,” she said.
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