Leesburg's officials mull smaller budget

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The city of Leesburg's preliminary budget has a pleasant surprise written into it for employees: cost-of-living raises that come despite what Leesburg City Council Finance Committee Chairman Bob Wilson calls "probably one of the tightest (budgets) we've ever had."

The council discussed the proposed budget, which is expected to come in at roughly $2.38 million -- a 2.5 percent decrease from the fiscal year 2012 budget -- during a special called meeting Monday.

"I've been dealing with budgets for many years, and this is probably one of the tightest we've ever had," Wilson said at the onset of the meeting. "But we're all one big team here. I have some suggestions that I've made, but I'm just one man with one vote.

"This is not my budget, it's our budget. And we're all here to look out for the citizens of Leesburg the best we can."

Among the cuts Wilson suggested, which drew no opposition from other council members, was a $50,000 request for new vehicles from the city's Public Works department and slashing in half that department's request of $110,000 for equipment.

Wilson also suggested, and the council agreed, removing $25,000 set aside for possible matching funds to build a walking trail downtown. Mayor Jim Quinn said the city could defer that project at least until returns on the July 31 vote on a regional special 1 percent transportation tax.

Councilwoman Debra Long asked that $5,000 of that funding, which was in the FY 12 budget but was not used, be utilized to buy new Christmas decorations.

Despite a contingency fund that he called "dangerously low," Wilson said the proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for most employees, and a 3.5 percent increase for office staff.

"It's just my suggestion, but I believe office staff, which are not privy to things like transportation allowances, are entitled to a larger raise," he said. "The numbers in this budget reflect that."

Wilson said that proposed expenditures -- not counting cuts tentatively approved by the board Monday -- would leave the city with a "contingency of roughly $80,000 to $85,000."

City Clerk Casey Moore said she'll prepare an updated budget with proposed changes and call for another meeting to discuss those. The council would then have to call another meeting -- most likely June 28 -- to formally approve the budget.

The spending plan must be in place by July 1, the start of the 2013 fiscal year.