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Posted: December 14, 2011 12:00 a.m.

City council to pass placeholder budget

Porterdale City Council agreed Monday night to pass a placeholder budget this month to meet state deadlines with the explicit intention of revisiting the entire spending plan when the new mayor and council are seated next month.

City officials on Monday decided to have a public hearing on a proposed budget Thursday. State law requires at least seven days between the public hearing and formal adoption of the budget.

Councilor Linda Finger on Monday tried to schedule an initial work session on the budget for January, putting off consideration of a spending plan until Mayor-elect Arline Chapman and Councilor-elect Anita Rainey, who unseated incumbent Mayor Bobby Hamby and Councilor Robert Foxworth in last month’s election, are sworn into office.

The city charter allows the government to operate on the previous year's budget on a month-to-month basis if a budget is not passed by the start of the fiscal year, which in Porterdale runs concurrent with the calendar year. State law requires local governments to pass a balanced budget before the beginning of the fiscal year but does not outline consequences for failing to do so.

City Manager Bob Thomson recommended the city pass a budget on time according to the law and revise the plan later if desired rather than intentionally missing the state-imposed deadline.

"This meets the state's requirement. Then you can tear it (the budget) apart and put it back together," Thomson said.

Councilor Lowell Chambers said the city should not jeopardize its certifications again, thereby losing grant opportunities in the future. "We've been ineligible for grants because we lost our certification status, so we should do everything we can to mind our P's and Q's," he said.

"We should anticipate January as our budget discussion month to work out the details," he said.

Officials agreed at that meeting to have a public hearing Thursday. State law requires the city to advertise the budget at least one week before the public hearing.
Porterdale advertised the original budget presentation scheduled for Dec. 5 in The Covington News' Nov. 27 edition. However, that meeting was canceled because the council did not have a quorum. The meeting was automatically rescheduled for Dec. 12. Another advertisement did not run.

Thomson presented a 2012 budget totaling $822,415, a 17 percent drop from the 2011 budget approved last winter. However, city officials cut spending mid-budget year this summer when the annual county property reassessment showed a 5.2-percent fall in property value and, therefore, tax revenue.

The city eliminated positions in the Police Department and the Public Works Department, furloughed all employees for four hours per week and raised property taxes by more than two mils, to 19.892 mils, in June.

The current proposal anticipated keeping the furlough in place all year, though Thomson and City Clerk Judy Johnson included cost estimates for stopping the furlough in July and for ending it altogether.

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