MOULTRIE — Moultrie residents will see a decrease in their taxes if the City Council approves its fiscal year 2007-2008 budget as proposed Tuesday. Unfortunately, rates for garbage collection will go up.

Interim City Manager Tom Berry said the proposed budget was not significantly different from the fiscal year 2006-2007 budget. Last year had $10,717,897 in revenues and $11,447,401 in expenditures, and the proposed budget has $10,652,216 in revenues and $11,307,634 in expenditures. The budget calls for a decrease in the millage rate, from 11.25 mills to a proposed 10.902 mills.

Berry praised the city’s department heads for keeping their budgets so close to last year’s budget figures.

“I can’t say enough about how good a job the department heads and (City Financial Director) Gary (McDaniel) did on this budget,” Berry said.

One of the biggest decreases came with a restructuring of the Moultrie Police Department. Berry said the department gave a proposed budget of $2,804,406, down from the $3,035,963 from last year. The decrease is mainly from a city decision to lease cars instead of purchasing them, and the restructured budget will allow for seven more officers.

Residents will not see a total decrease in their taxes and costs, however, as Berry said the solid waste department is not recovering its costs. In order for the department to meet its needs, there is a proposed 3 to 5 percent increase in rates that will take affect as early as January 2008.

Despite the proposed increase in solid waste rates, Berry said the City of Moultrie is very competitive in its costs. The departments provide a very high level of service that gives rates competitive to any other area or other service provider, he said.

“The residents of Moultrie are getting a deal,” Berry said. “The department heads really stepped up to the plate.”

The proposed budget also included raises for city employees that will be given out based solely on performance, Berry said. The proposal was for an up to 4 percent raise for employees, and he proposed allowing the city to offer having 1 percent of the raise go to a retirement fund.

In addition to the proposal for salary raises, Berry said he would like to begin offering health care to city employees until they reach 65 years old. Having the health care benefits provides support for both the employees who may retire early and for the city in terms of monetary savings. The council voted to approve the proposal, and it may be instituted within the next few days but only offered over a 30-day period.

Prior to the budget workshop, Colquitt County Arts Center Director Jeff Ophime gave a presentation asking the city to include the center in the proposed budget. He said people from out of town have come in and praised the center and all it does, but it is not enough to support the monthly expenses and maintenance. He would like to have both the city and Colquitt County support it.

“We have an incredible facility that’s not normal,” Ophime said, “but it needs support from the city and the county. I need to convince you arts are important, not a frivolous luxury.”

Mayor William McIntosh agreed the center is valuable and promised councilmembers would consider it as they discussed the budget.

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