City holds budget hearing

City Administrator Paul Worley presents the proposed Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget Monday.

What will likely be the final version of the city’s Fiscal Year 2022-23 was presented at Monday night’s council meeting.

On behalf of the Calhoun City Schools portion of the budget, Board of Education Chair Rhoda Washington presented the system’s $37 million budget.

“We educated about 4,200 students, and have approximately 426 employees with 231 teachers, 73 paraprofessionals, 26 leadership personnel, and 96 support staff,” Washington said. “We still have the lowest per pupil expenditure in the state.”

In the upcoming fiscal year, the school system will add a principal, an assistant principal, a 75% nurse, a media paraprofessional, a bus driver, a nutrition manager, and a 49% councilor. Most of those added expenditures are brought on by the full opening of the Early Learning Academy.

City Administrator Paul Worley outlined the city government’s $19 million operating budget, as well as the $69.5 million utilities budget.

“At the forefront of our minds is planning for community growth,” Worley said.

Some of the upcoming changes for city government in the upcoming fiscal year include maintaining a 5% average cost of living increase, making the temporary American Rescue Plan Act raises a permanent part of the city budget starting July 1, a 3% water and sewer increase, and a proposed 0.5 millage rate increase from 2.7 up to 3.2.

“I think we really need to focus on having a sustainable millage rate that can support a city our size,” Worley said, later explaining that the average millage rate for cities of comparable size around the state is closer to 9.0, leaving the proposed rate well below that level.

The city plans to add two new patrol officers to the police department, as well as one new school resource officer at the ELA campus. Two firefighter positions will also be added, as well as a street department position.

“This is a need for our city operations to keep up with some of the call volumes we’re seeing in public safety, and some of the work orders were seeing that are affecting all of our departments,” Worley said.

Some of the challenges city government will continue to face are high inflation rates, fuel and materials costs, wage inflation, competition for employees in the current job market, and rising interest rates.

On a positive note, somewhat helping to keep up with inflation has been a healthy level of incoming funds from various sources including the Local Option Sales Tax, business licensing, ad valorem, permitting, rents and royalties, utilities, and hotel/motel to name a few.

“We’re very pleased with the diversity of revenues our general fund has,” Worley said. “That pie is very balanced.”

The budget will be eligible for adoption next Monday during the council’s June 20 meeting beginning at 7 p.m., at the Depot, 109 S. King St. All council meetings are open to the public.

During his council member comments, Mayor Pro Tem Al Edwards noted that though he will be absent from next Monday’s meeting for personal reasons, he stands behind the budget in its current form and would have voted in favor of its passage were he able to be there.

“I’ll be out of town, and not able to be here to vote,” Edwards said. “I would just like the record to indicate that if I were here to vote, I am definitely in favor of the budgets that have been put together by the city department heads and personnel, as well as the city school system.”

In new business, council members unanimously approved the 2022 Hazard Mitigation Plan Resolution after approval was received from the state.

Announced by Mayor Jimmy Palmer during his comments was the city’s meeting of the qualifications to be recertified as a Georgia Municipal Association City of Ethics, an honor that will be officially presented during the upcoming 2022 GMA convention.

“That’s something I think we should all be proud of,” Palmer said.

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