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Posted: January 15, 2009 7:11 p.m.

Porterdale city council warned of 2010 shortfall

8 city employees to receive raises

Porterdale City Manager Tom Fox presented city council members a draft of the town's 2009 budget and warned the council at Tuesday's work session about future budget shortfalls if more expenditures were not cut or if revenue did not significantly increase in 2009.

"We're already operating on bare bones now and we're going to continue to work in other areas to see what we can do. Assuming we're not going to get any new tap fees, building permit fees or any new development whatsoever and being as conservative as possible, we're - without raising taxes - looking at a nearly $200,000 deficit for 2010," Fox said.

Fox said city workers, police officers and city hall office staff were already stretched thin. He said the 2010 shortfall is equal to the salaries of five full-time employees.

"Something's got to break," Fox said. "You either got to increase your revenues or decrease your expenses, and I don't really know how much more we can decrease without cutting services - drastically."

He pointed to the council's ability to set a new millage rate in 2009 to shore up revenue for 2010, but said the council needed to weigh the consequences of increasing property taxes for town residents.

By correctly categorizing $79,901 of capital outlay in an amended 2008 budget, the city would gain a surplus for that fiscal year according to Fox. The city also recorded a $43,287 surplus in its water and sewer budget and expects to clear a bit more than $15,000 in sanitation revenue. Paired with $400,000 from the sale of excess sewer capacity to the county, Fox said the city was in good shape for 2009.

However, the city is making payments on two Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) loans and must transfer $200,634 to the general fund in order to balance the budget for 2010.

"So that $400,000 is going to go pretty quickly," Fox said.

Council member Linda Finger said they council needed to make more cuts in order to bolster the budget for coming years.

Picking through the budget, the council suggested cuts in employee training and putting the town's impact fee study on hold, which totaled approximately $15,500 in savings.

"I think that there's some training that's absolutely essential especially when we've had to hire these new people and things that are mandatory or you lose your certification - those things are absolute," said Council member Arline Chapman.

They council decided to leave $1,500 in the budget for election training for Fox and the city clerk as well as for any mandatory police officer training.

Fox said the city also had begun advertising for a different auditing company in hopes of saving some money by bidding out the service and that the city attorney was reviewing an Oxford ordinance regarding the removal of trash from residential properties.

"Our landfill bill is twice as much as city of Oxford's," said Council member Robert Foxworth. "They charge for stuff like that and some stuff they don't even haul off."

The drafted budget does include money for the salary of a part-time code enforcement officer as well as represents merit-based pay increases for four police officers and four public works employees. All council members expressed the need for a code enforcement officer as well as asked Fox to add the raises to the consent agenda for the council's next meeting

"We've really given them a tough time," Chapman said of increasing employees' insurance payments earlier in the year, "so I think we need to give them the money."

Finger also asked Fox to present the council with an itemized list of expenditures in the "other services" category, which totals $61,751 for all departments.

The council's next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at City Hall.

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