Albany Fire Chief James Carswell gives his budget summary to the Albany City Commission Tuesday.
ALBANY, Ga. — Albany City Commissioners held the first of a series of planned departmental budget reviews Tuesday as they inch toward creating a FY 2013 budget.
On the agenda for discussion Tuesday were two of the city’s largest departments — Public Works and Fire — and two of the smallest — Finance and Transit.
Code Enforcement, which was also to be reviewed, was bumped to the commissioner’s next budget hearing, which is set for May 15.
And while the departments discussed Tuesday make up a good portion of the city’s general and enterprise fund budgets, there was little in the way of controversy.
Fire Chief James Carswell pitched his $12.5 million budget. While that budget is currently $320,951 more than that of the current fiscal year, it includes a cost-of-living adjustment that will likely be stripped by commissioners, $169,906 worth of vacant positions that will probably go unfilled and $102,514 budgeted for overtime that will also likely go away.
With those changes, the department will end up $123,551 less than FY 2012.
Under the Fire Department’s leadership comes the 911/Computer-Aided Dispatch program, which Carswell told commissioners will have $750,000 worth of personnel costs paid for out of a 911 reserve fund; avoiding an obligation from the general fund.
“We’ve got enough funding in that reserve fund to do this once, but next year that’s going to have to be funded through the general fund,” Carswell said. “It’s just something to keep in mind.”
The city’s Finance Department’s budget is projected to be $1.9 million, which is more than 4 percent less than the current fiscal year, Director Kris Newton said.
Finance has cut its grant monitor, an intern position and eliminated vacant positions.
“Our focus is going to be on trying to reduce costs and trying to find ways to help others reduce costs,” Newton told commissioners.
Currently, the department is also in the midst of revenue hunting through two different audits. The department is auditing the agreement it has with Mediacom and has just begun what will likely be a three-year audit of local hotels to ensure they’re paying the proper amount of hotel/motel taxes.
“We’re pretty certain that we’re not getting all we’re due,” City Manager James Taylor told the board. “That’s why we’re auditing.”
Public Works splits its $27.5 million budget between administration, street, sewer and solid waste divisions. Administration costs increased by $30,878 thanks to the COLA that will likely be cut by commissioners. In the street division, officials have unfunded one position, saving $39,983.
The sewer system division is funded through the sewer enterprise fund and includes a consumer price index increase of 3.4 percent, or 82 cents for residential city and 70 cents for residential county. The increase is based on an anticipated increase in WG&L electric rates and increases in the cost of fuel.
The solid waste division, which is funded by the solid waste enterprise fund, includes a 3.4 percent increase in rates, which translates to 92 cents per household.
Public Works Director Phil Roberson told commissioners that while capital costs, like fuel and vehicle prices, have continued to rise, they have worked to trim personnel costs. Since 2002, Roberson pointed out, the street division has cut its staff by 32 percent while maintaining the same workload.
FY 2013 will mark the first full budget year in which the city of Albany’s transit service will be completely managed in-house. Its $2.8 million budget is nearly completely funded through grants and federal subsidies, Interim Director David Hamilton said. The city’s contribution to its budget is $139,000 annually.
Hamilton said that Transit currently has 11 fixed-route buses and six para-transit vehicles. Over the next fiscal year, Transit will begin making changes to its routes to incorporate flex routes and will attempt to lessen the number of para-transit routes.
Taylor told commissioners the city loses $42 for each para-transit pickup.