SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. - Social Circle City Manager Adele Schirmer presented a proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2018 at the city’s monthly council meeting Tuesday.
Major features were raises for public safety personnel, expansions to the city’s staff and serious investment in water and sewer. Paying for those items will involve water and sewer rate hikes and a property tax increase.
Around the state, police and fire workers are getting paid more. Georgia gave raises to all its public safety workers last year and various counties, including Walton, have given raises recently. Now cities have to keep up.
“We have excellent police and fire staff,” Schirmer said. “It’s in our interest to keep them.”
The new budget offers market rate adjustments to police and fire workers. This means a total of $50,621 would be offered to police and $47,991 to fire. Splitting that money among the police’s 16 members and fire’s 17 equals about a $3,000 raise for each worker.
This would be funded by a 0.8-mill increase in the property tax.
The council’s first strategic goal this year was to expand city staff to better serve the Social Circle community. The budget creates two new positions to that end.
The director of administration and financial services would help process water, sewer and gas payments as well a various public records matters, code updates and other tasks. This position would be funded by a reduction in outside consulting fees and overtime paid to current staff.
The youth programs coordinator would be a 30 hour-per-week position to boost recreation, leadership and service opportunities for the young people of Social Circle. This would be paid for through a 0.2-mill increase in property tax rates.
Social Circle needs to address a long backlog of water and sewer maintenance issues, as well as expand services so the system can accommodate the rapid growth arriving in the area. These improvements carry a price tag of around $20 million.
The proposed budget starts to chip away at the backlog, allocating $2 million for projects this year. This will be paid for by a 2.5 percent rate increase for water and sewer customers.
An average household uses 3,000 gallons per month; this hike would bring that bill to $58.47 from $57.04.
The millage rate increase of 1 percent would bring rate to 8.9 mills from 7.9, meaning a property assessed at $100,000 would pay $40 more. This will be the first time Social Circle will have increased property taxes in two years. Before that, it had been 10 years since the rate increased.
The total proposed operating budget was approximately $14.8 million. The council may take work sessions on May 29 and 31, will hold public comment on the millage rate increase June 12 and aim to adopt the budget on June 19.