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Posted: May 24, 2012 9:18 p.m.

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Oxford to choose projects for '13 budget

Oxford City Council members continue to form the budget for the upcoming 2013 fiscal year but must first pare down $1.2 million in project requests, ranging from equipment for a fourth police officer to new parks to cemetery improvements to more advanced electrical and water meters.

The council is expected to vote June 4 on the first reading of the budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. The regularly scheduled meeting will be preceded by a public hearing at 6 p.m.

The city has yet to receive its finalized tax digest, as property value appeals continue to work their way through the system, but the city is expecting to receive $4.13 million in revenues, assuming it adopts the rollback millage rate.

General operating expenses are projected to total $3.87 million, leaving the city with a current surplus of $262,307; however, City Manager Clark Miller said that expense does not include most of the $1.2 million in project requests.

Trash and recycling pickup
One of the largest decisions yet to be made is whether to privatize the city's sanitation service.

The city is still waiting on quotes, so figures on how much it would cost to contract out the service weren't available.

However, if the city continues to provide the service it will lose money.

Revenues are expected to be $143,000, while expenses will range from $232,000 to $238,000, depending on how many full-time or temporary workers the city employs. The trash and recycling pickup accounts for about 60 percent of the cost, while the additional 40 percent is from picking up yard waste and providing chipping services. Those services are not in the privatization conversation.

Councilman David Eady said the city may also want to examine what private companies are doing, since one company the city talked to was going to be able to pick up all the approximately 500 cans in one day with two people.

The city currently uses three people on two different days, Councilman George Holt said.

Fourth police officer
A fourth police officer is likely to be approved, but the city would need to spend $38,500 for a new car and specialized equipment and $3,500 for a desk, computer, phone and other office supplies.

Cemetery improvements
The city currently has $20,000 budgeted for cemetery improvements, but there are some additional improvements that others, specifically Councilman Jim Windham, would to see that could push the total up. Possible work includes surveying land for future cemetery plots, removing trees that are affecting plots, using ground-penetrating radar to both identify people buried in unmarked graves and people who have been mistakenly buried next to their plot on someone else's land.

Mayor Jerry Roseberry asked the council to consider setting some money aside for the improvement and maintenance of the city's electric and water line systems.

The city loses money on its general operations (administrative operations, elections, court services, police, fire, streets and cemetery), but subsidizes those operations with the profit margin it generates from electric sales ($802,471) and water sales ($96,436).

"That's our golden goose. We need to take care of, not kill it," Roseberry said, explaining why he wanted to invest more in the system.

The city could increase its water price by 25 cents per 1,000 gallons, which includes the county raising the wholesale price by 17 cents per 1,000 gallons plus an additional 8 cent per 1,000 gallon increase from the city.

The city is not asking for any increase in electric prices at this time, despite the fact it is expecting to pay around 5 percent more for electricity in 2013.

Next meetings
In addition to the June 4 meeting, the council also plans to have a budget public hearing at 6 p.m. June 20 at City Hall, and then approve the second reading of the budget.

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