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Budget votes loom large this week

ALBANY -- For those people living within the geographic boundaries of Dougherty County, this week will likely prove taxing in more ways than one.

Both the Albany City Commission and the Dougherty County Commission are expected to vote on their fiscal year 2013 budgets this week, and both will ultimately decide whether to raise property taxes to balance those budgets.

On the county side, commissioners will likely vote today on whether to accept County Administrator Richard Crowdis' $73.9 million budget proposal. While it's a proposal that is down 1.4 percent, or roughly $1.04 million, from the current year's budget, it's also one that suggests a 2-mill tax increase for those residents who live outside the city limits of Albany -- a rise equal to about $80 on a $100,000 home.

If adopted, the increase would be the first since 2002. As expected, it's being fought by concerned citizens who have demanded that the commission find some way of trimming what they perceive to be a wasteful government rather than raising taxes.

Some on the commission have countered, saying there are few items lefts to cut in the Special Services District Fund, pointing to the fact that of the $7.1 million expected to be spent in that fund next year, $3.1 million is for the Dougherty County Police Department with another $3.1 million headed to the accounts of the city of Albany to provide fire service. The only two budgeted areas that aren't tied to a service delivery contract in that entire fund are the Dougherty County Police Department and a streetlight fund that could feasibly be cut only about $130,000, they say.

On the city side, City Manager James Taylor has presented a proposed FY 2013 budget of $110.1 million, which is $1.3 million less than the current year's budget.

To balance the budget, Taylor is suggesting an increase in the city millage rate of 1.33 mills.

Challenges to the city budget include a continual decline in sales tax revenues, a withering tax base, a rollback of the millage rate from 10.8 in 2005 to 8.6 currently, and a drop in recreation fees.

Meanwhile, spending for public safety has grown by 28 percent since FY 2007, or roughly $7 million. That figure doesn't include the creation of the gang task force -- a $1.2 million annual expense -- that was originally supposed to be funded with a .71 mill increase that was never implemented.

Add to that increasing fuel and health care costs, and the city's in a lurch to balance its budget.

Taylor has said he will raid the city's sanitary sewer reserve fund by $2 million, transfer $1 million from the city's $8.6 million reserve fund and use $748,000 from the reserve fund of the 911/Computer-Aided-Dispatch reserve to cover operating expenses.

The budget also calls for eliminating nine general fund positions and delaying hiring 32 percent of the Albany Police Department's vacant positions until FY 2014.

The City Commission is scheduled to discuss its budget further at a 7 p.m. pre-briefing at the government center Tuesday night. Commissioners are expected to vote on the budget at some point after the regular meeting begins at 8 p.m.

Comments

tocar 2 years, 1 month ago

We do have a dwindling tax base. I wonder why? Our commissioners have presented absolutely no incentives for industries to remain here or come here. So the answer is to burden the current tax payers with a mill increase, cut into the emergency services with crime rates at an all time high. You can start by cutting salaries and positions from the non-mandatory departments. I still think that the budget could be trimmed from wasteful government expenditures. Taxpayers have had enough of unconcern from our commissioners. Our safety and well being should be the number one priority.

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dingleberry 2 years, 1 month ago

When the tax exempt property value in DoCo is 35% of the taxed property value, there is a problem that won't be going away. Lowndes Co, which is growing, has a 10% rate. When prospective employers look at taxes, crime, schools, poverty, workforce,unemployment, healthcare costs, dysfunctional governments, and general quality of life issues, does anyone seriously expect major employers with quality jobs to come? We not only are not solving any of these shortcomings, we aren't even willing to talk about them as "real" collective and related problems. Everything is beautiful in the good life city, or so we seem willing to pretend.

The most difficult jobs in Albany are those that have to "sell" companies and people on relocating to or even visiting Albany. Why come unless you have to?

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jglass 2 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the other two comments. The city and county in the past have spent foolishly and it has finally caught up to them. Cut positions and salaries where it does not effect our safety. I know I am tired of my property taxes increasing. My property taxes have increase for the past 3 years....enough is enough.
Please learn how to be good stewards of our money.

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Progressive 2 years, 1 month ago

The financial picture will not show significant improvements until DoCo and the City of Albany make changes to be like Jacksonville, FL / Duval County (all in one). Yes, this means consolidating the remaining duplicated departments (HR, Finance, Police, Attornies, etc). This requires the educated citizens to convince the many others to vote their non-conforming commissioners and mayor out of office so that we can get officials in place to make this happen. We can not allow them to continue making these same foolish decisions to raise taxes, use reserve funds and then expect different tax paying results. The same holds true for the School Board. If there are no changes in these positions, expect more businesses to close down, continued increases in taxes and foolish spending.

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dingleberry 2 years, 1 month ago

It will be a hard sell to convince those in the unincorporated parts of the county to become part of the Albany spending machine--think University Gardens, Grovetown, ACRI, RQ, Chehaw and downtown redevelopment for starters. And even if it can be done, the tax digest locally will remain in the toilet with the tax exempt property volume not changing. When consolidations occur, there is always an agreement that no one will be cut and positions will be eliminated through attrition. So, savings are generally a long term proposition.

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Progressive 2 years, 1 month ago

That is exactly why we need to vote the current reps out of office that are not for consolidation, and refuse to address the tax exempt property status for those who do not and should not be exempt. We will need reps that understand how to make these tough decisions.

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