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.