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Covington approves FY 2009 budget
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The Covington City Council approved the city's fiscal year 2008-2009 budget, which projects expenditures at $132.8 million, at their Monday night meeting.

The council also voted to keep the city's millage rate at 8.208, the same as it was in 2007.

Revenue is projected to be $133,345,424 for the city, leaving an anticipated surplus of $590,802. That surplus though, will likely be eaten up at the pump by the city's fleet of cars and trucks as a result of higher fuel costs.

"We are finding that that (fuel costs) is significantly higher," said City Clerk John Grotheer of fuel costs. "We are finding our purchase of gas is up over last year as well."

The Covington Police Department saw its budget grow to $5.9 million in FY 2008-2009 from $5.3 million in 2007. Budgeted capital expenditures for the department over the next year include four new patrol cars and 10 car cameras.

The Fire Department also saw its budget increased form $5.1 million in 2007 to $5.9 million this year. Scheduled capital expenditures include $500,000 for a new firefighter training facility, which will be shared with the county.

Electricity sales are projected to bring in $43.9 million in revenue for the city, up from $41.2 million in 2007 and natural gas operations are projected to bring in $24.7 million, up from $19.4 million in 2007. Utility rates remain the same as last year under the new budget.

The city's budget includes a transfer of $7.1 million form the Gas and Electric Fund to the city's General Fund in order to cover expenditures Grotheer said.

Taxes are projected to bring the city $10.6 million in revenue, with ad valorem taxes contributing $5.6 million of that amount. The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is expected to contribute $1,650,000. In 2007, it contributed $2,050,000. The Local Option Sales Tax is projected to bring in $2.5 million.

The city has budgeted $1.1 million for the completion of an automated gas meter reader system, which means city employees will no longer have to manually read the meters. Grotheer said the system is expected to improve overall efficiency in addition to cutting down on man-hours for the city.

Funding has also been allocated for a new city Web site. Grotheer said the new site, which will cost $145,000, will have interactive features that will allow customers to pay their bills online and to post questions to city officials.

"It's going to be a tremendous improvement in the area of customer service," Grotheer said.

The city's budget is more than $10 million greater than it's budget for calendar year 2007, which was $122.7 million. This is the city's first year operating on a fiscal year budget. The city made the change to allow for greater cooperation in joint-projects with the Newton County Board of Commissioners, which operates on a fiscal year budget.