Lott unveils budget proposal

ALBANY, Ga. -- City Manager Alfred Lott presented Albany City Commissioners with a rough draft of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget Tuesday, which despite growing by $304,000 from the previous year, features a near half-mil property tax rollback.

The proposed $103.9 million budget includes a millage rate rollback of .497 mills and implements phase II of a pay study while barring cost-of-living or merit pay raises for employees and foregoing a contribution to a workers' compensation fund. The city has also been able to avoid employee furloughs or layoffs under the proposal.

According to the presentation presented Tuesday, the budget includes cuts to the Albany Civic Center and Albany Municipal Auditorium budgets while increasing the general/special fund, the Solid Waste Fund and the Transit department.

Lott said that he does not intend to force another 10 percent, across-the-board cut to departmental budgets, but rather intends to continue streamlining where possible and cutting departments less vital to the city's mission.

"To cut the police and fire departments the same as other departments is something that you really should do only once," he said. "There are some departments that are vital to our mission and others, like the Civic Center, that are quality-of-life items."

The total cuts to both the municipal auditorium and Civic Center amount to less than 5 percent or roughly $19,000.

The total general fund revenues are projected to top $29.5 million with property taxes making up 24 percent of revenues, followed by sales tax dollars at 15 percent and 14 percent from the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission.

The millage rate rollback is anticipated to strip the city of roughly $800,000 in revenues, dropping total revenues from property taxes from $14.7 million in FY 2010 to $13.9 million in FY 2011.

The FY 2011 budget does include pulling $4.9 million out of the city's reserve fund, which includes the $800,000 for the rollback and an anticipated deficit.

While merit and COLA increases will not be included in the budget, some city employees will see an increase in pay through the implementation of phase II of a pay study, which was done to ensure that salaries were in line with similar jobs at other municipalities.

That item will add an additional $342,602 to the budget.

Those city residents who have their garbage collected will see their solid waste bills go up by 63 cents to keep pace with increasing tipping fees at the Dougherty County landfill.

In terms of personnel, six new positions will be created, Lott said, including one administrative secretary at the Gang Unit, one accounting technician for the finance department and four positions in the Risk Management Department of Human Resources.

The budget eliminates or doesn't fund eight positions in the general fund, including one communications facilitator position at 911, three positions at Planning and Development, two positions at Engineering and a position each at Public Works and Recreation and Parks.

For the enterprise fund, seven positions will go unfunded, including six public works positions and one Civic Center position.

The presentation Tuesday was a rough draft of the FY 2011 budget. Meetings between the commission and the individual department heads will begin April 13 and continue on April 20, April 27 and May 4.

"It's important to know that this is just the rough copy and can and likely will change as we go through the process," Lott said.

The budget proposal also incorporates money from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia's Competitive Trust Fund, which is being dispersed between the city and the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission, which has helped offset the loss of additional revenues.