Moultrie Observer

Government

September 18, 2012

City of Moultrie passes $3.3-million budget

MOULTRIE — Two weeks ago, several people stood up at public hearings to ask the Moultrie City Council to roll back millage rates because their property values had increased.

On Tuesday night, a third public hearing was held but no one spoke. Then the council passed the budget as originally proposed with no dissent.

The general fund budget calls for a rate of 10.904 mills to be applied to a property’s value when determining ad valorem taxes. It’s the third year in a row at that rate, but the budget expects to bring in more money because some of the county’s property has been reassessed for the first time in at least three years.

Three years ago, the state imposed a moratorium on property assessment increases, but the moratorium ran out this year. Some property values have gone up — some of them by a large margin, based on assessments mailed to property owners earlier this year. Some of those property owners had addressed both the county commission and the city council in hopes of getting relief from the higher tax bills brought about by the higher property values.

Those property owners were urged to file appeals of their assessments, but neither the county nor the city lowered millage rates.

The city’s general fund budget calls for $3,375,124 in tax revenues — up $238,040 from the current year. According to city figures, budgeted revenues have increased each year since at least 2007, but this is the largest increase in that period.

The largest single increase in expenditures is at the Moultrie Police Department. City Manager Mike Scott said the police department has two officers whose salaries were paid by a COPS grant, but beginning this year those salaries become the city’s responsibility. In all, the MPD has 46 sworn police officers.

To balance the budget as approved, the city will have to take money from its reserve funds, Scott said. However, the city council has instructed him to get with department heads in the coming weeks to find other places to cut or consolidate and avoid having to do that, he said.

The city’s budget also includes increases to fees for water, sewer and natural gas and a small increase to security light fees. Those represent separate funds from the general fund.

The electric revenue fund is budgeted to receive $23.2 million in revenue, up $3.5 million from the current year’s budget.

The water and sewer revenue fund is budgeted to receive $5.68 million, down about $20,000 from the current year’s budget.

The gas revenue fund is budgeted for revenues of $2.39 million, down about $650,000 from the current year’s budget.

The budget, the millage rate and the changes to the utility fees all received final approval at Tuesdays council meeting.

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