ALBANY — In the end, after the recriminations and accusations, after the community input and staff responses, the Albany City Commission unanimously passed the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget Wednesday to the tune of $288,322,879, the city’s largest ever.
With much of the talk — and community outrage — surrounding the proposed (and eventually approved) $31.6 million supplemental budget for the current fiscal year to account for costs related to Hurricane Michael cleanup (much of which is expected to be eligible for FEMA reimbursement), the ongoing LED light installation program, the purchase of The Albany Herald building for development purposes and the ongoing revamp of the city’s antiquated sewer system and other infrastructure upgrades, the commission actually passed the FY ‘20 spending plan with little fanfare.
Finance Director Derrick Brown, who with City Manager Sharon Subadan is the primary architect of the city budget, answered complaints from Atlanta-based CPA Will Geer (see separate story) at the end of the meeting, but he also responded to complaints about the end-of-fiscal-year passage of the FY ’19 supplemental budget brought by former Economic Development Board member Chad Warbington.
When Warbington said the Dougherty County Commission has voted to alter its budget a number of times to account for storm-recovery spending during meetings throughout the year, Brown grew testy, saying he follows the process put in place by the City Commission.
“I guess the alternative could be to amend the budget 10, 12, 15 times a year,” the city Finance director said. “We could amend the budget every time we get an invoice. But at the end of the year, the cost (for storm recovery) would still be $24 million.
“If we were going to do this any differently, that would have to come from this board. This process (of amending the budget at the end of the fiscal year) is the process approved by this board.”
Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta refuted Warbington’s complaint about the “11th-hour” budget amendment by telling Brown, “You did the right thing. This is the industry standard.”
But Warbington, who unsuccessfully challenged Marietta for his Ward IV seat, called the commissioner’s assessment into question.
“I challenge Commissioner Marietta’s comment,” he said. “This process (of amending the budget once near the end of the fiscal year) is not the industry standard. This is not what others do. It’s not what the County Commission does.”
Brown said the only alteration to the budget, eventually approved 6-0 by the commission, from the plan presented to the board initially on May 14, was the addition of one employee.
“The cost does not change, it’s just the number of positions presented (in the budget),” he said. “That number is increased by one.”
Brown said the city’s FY ’20 spending plan calls for a millage rate rollback to 9.729 mills.
Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher was among those commending Brown and his staff for the work they’d done after that work was publicly challenged.
“Our passage of this budget and the budget amendment shows that we have confidence in you and the work you do,” Fletcher said.