New budget may allow aquarium funding

ALBANY, Ga. -- A change to the upcoming FY 2011 budget will allow $275,000 in funding for the Flint RiverQuarium if approved, city officials said during a presentation before the Albany City Commission Tuesday.

The allocation is part of a series of small changes made to City Manager Alfred Lott's budget proposal currently under consideration by the Commission.

The changes, based mostly on a series of corrective accounting measures that Finance Director Kris Newton said were simple oversights during the budget process, also include the RiverQuarium appropriation.

The presentation was given with no discussion of the RiverQuarium funding by commissioners, and the agenda item was for informational purposes only. The Commission will vote on the budget at the end of June.

The mention of funding for the RiverQuarium comes a day after Executive Director Scott Loehr asked the Dougherty County Commission's Finance Committee for a $200,000 appropriation for the upcoming fiscal year.

Loehr told County Commissioners on that committee that he and his staff were working toward a goal of reducing the amount of government funding needed, but that the reality of the attraction industry is that some level of government funding would likely be needed going forward, along with private donations, gifts and grants.

Last year, the city budgeted $250,000 for the RiverQuarium but added an additional $25,000 later in the year when Loehr petitioned the board.

In total, the changes mentioned Tuesday will increase the total city general fund budget by $189,965, lifting the total budget amount to $104.1 million.

Changes include $50,000 for the Albany Civil Rights Institute as part of a three-year agreement with its parent foundation, $50,000 that will serve as the budget for the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, and a $98,000 set-aside for the Payroll Development Authority to cover any costs that may occur should the former MacGregor Golf building go unsold.

Newton also said that $200,000 in transfers from the Longterm Financial Planning Committee -- the guardians of money that is flowing in from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia's Competitive Trust -- was added to the budget for the Albany Police Department's Gang Unit. That money will not inflate the budget but will replace $200,000 that was going to come out of city reserves.

City staff also noted $2.8 million the city will receive in MEAG transfers that are designated to go directly into the city's general fund yearly.