ALBANY, Ga. — Albany City Manager James Taylor has submitted an ambitious five-year plan to the City Commission meant to put the city on sound financial footing.
The plan is Taylor's vision on how best to turn what has proven to be a bit of a gnarled budget into one that will trim the size and scope of the city government while still giving residents the best value of services.
The list, which was provided Wednesday to The Albany Herald, is essentionally a wish list of cuts, revenue generation ideas and policy changes combined with a timeline of when the changes need to be made.
Beginning in 2013, the list focuses on ways the city can increase its revenues and cut expenses. Those include reviewing and updating the city's fee structure for things like business licenses and construction permits, and increasing the city's ability to allow online purchases.
In 2013, the list includes plans to review the city's health plan to reduce the portion that the taxpayers have to foot as a way to reduce expenses; review the fund that the city uses to make capital purchases, and create a joint proposal that would require approval of the city, county and school board when any payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) is approved.
The plan also supports creation of a policy reviewing the city's take-home vehicle policy and the use of city equipment for outside employment, as well as the creation of a policy that would require commission approval on all intergovernmental agreements beginning in 2013.
By 2014, Taylor wants a new review of the city's reserve fund; a review of a proposal to increase the city's hotel/motel taxes, and a review of the city's tree cutting policy.
The list would also have the commission and staff renegotiate the agreement with Dougherty County on how much sales taxes each should get under the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) contract in 2014, as well as adopt a policy that would formalize the re-evaluation of tax exempt properties and create a database or list of non-profit organizations that voluntarily agree to make PILOTs to the city.
The further in time the list goes, the more ambitious its goals.
By 2015, Taylor wants the city to have thoroughly researched possible conversion of all city vehicles to compressed natural gas, and to sell under utilized city property, such as parks and vacant lots.
By 2017, the plan is to reduce the number of city staff from 930 to 871; increase residential development, and expand the city's current infrastructure to grow its tax base.
The challenges the city faces are daunting.
By 2014, the city's reserve fund is anticipated to be down to $3.4 million. Meanwhile, the sources of revenue for the city — sales taxes and ad valorem taxes — will be cut because of changes in state law that are eliminating the sales taxes on energy and portions of ad valorem taxes.
Perhaps most concerning is the closing of the $3 million per year cash spigot the city has been receiving in the form of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia's trust fund.
City leaders have been using that as a hedge against declining revenues, which has propped up the city's budget. When that funding goes away, city leaders are going to have to decide where to cut or how to generate the revenues if they want to keep items that have been funded through the MEAG money.