5-cent tax hike in city’s budget

Council in midst of daily sessions

City council members are mulling a proposed 2012-13 city budget that is based on an estimated tax increase of about five cents.

The preliminary operating budget, compiled by City Manager Kelvin Knauf and being discussed in four consecutive sessions at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at City Hall, shows a total tax rate of 72.01 cents per $100 valuation, that’s up almost a nickel from last year.

Thursday’s session is tentative and could be canceled, according to the budget calendar.

Knauf cautioned that the tax rate calculations are preliminary and that the eventual figure will probably be different from numbers in the proposed budget.

Under the proposed budget, the general fund tax rate would increase 4.2499 cents to 57.44 cents, while the debt service rate would go from 13.78 cents to 14.57 cents.

Public budget hearings are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13 and 20 and the budget and tax rate are to be adopted Aug. 30.

EXPENSES—Operating fund expenses in the proposed budget are put at $8,216, 374. That compares to $6,574,853 in the current, amended, 2011-12 budget.

That total includes a number of “budgets within the budget,” including a $2,903,401 general fund budget and a $3,025,011 enterprise fund.

Council members are reviewing a different budget section each afternoon in this week’s multiple sessions.

‘DECISIONS’—The proposed budget includes a number of “decision items” for council members to mull.

Those include two new parks and cemeteries department employees to maintain cemeteries, at a total cost of $91,550 and three vehicle replacements for the police department, two patrol cars (total of $83,320) and an animal control vehicle, with dog box, at a price tag of $18,598.

INCREASES—The proposed budget includes an eight percent average pay increase for city employees.

A step-pay plan is proposed for sworn police personnel “to retain police officers.”

The debt service fund reflects the addition of $125,846 as the first year’s payment for certificates of obligation issued last year for the new northwest water tower.

It also reflects the addition of $27,361 in debt service payments for certificates of obligation of Rockdale’s new fire truck.

A separate capital budget of $3,193,162 is also proposed.

The capital improvements budget reflects proceeds generated from the sale of instruments of indebtedness (certificates of obligation, tax notes or revenue bonds) and the $4 per month contingency fees placed on city utility bills.

Also included is a separate enterprise (water/wastewater) budget which is not funded through tax collections but through monthly fees).

GOOD NEWS—Knauf said all budget revenue and expenditure recommendations are based on current financial trends and operating needs, terming issues facing the city council in the upcoming year as “extremely complex.”

“The good news is that the economy is recovering, although it is still not where it was when the Alcoa plant was fully operational.” Knauf said.

“Sales taxes are more than last year, municipal court revenues and property taxes are holding steady,” he said.

But Knauf caut ioned that Rockdale needs to maintain and improve much of its infrastructure, including streets, water treatment and distribution systems and wastewater collection and treatment systems.

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