City Council reviews proposed budget

·3 min read

Sep. 3—The City of Athens held its public hearing for the proposed 2022-23 budget last week. Total expenditures across all funds for the proposed budget are $34,834,230.

The Council will hold a public hearing on the tax rate at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12. The meeting will be held in the Civic Hall, Room 216 of the Cain Center 915 S. Palestine Street, Athens.

Councilmembers plan to pass the budget and the tax rate during the meeting.

The budget is split into 13 separate funds, the largest of which is the General Fund with $13,484,284. Of that amount, 57% goes to public safety such as police and fire protection, and 18% to public works like roads. These are the City's two largest expenditures and account for 75% of the General Fund.

Important highlights from the General Fund include:

—A 5% increase to the Step & Grade Pay Scale

—$550,000 for street improvements

—$135,000 to purchase and equip two new patrol cruisers

—$30,000 in improvements to City facilities

—$65,000 in funding for the Animal Shelter

—$466,250 for Economic Development

The second biggest fund is the Utility Fund with $6,346,268.

Important highlights from the Utility Fund include:

—A 5% increase to the Step & Grade Pay Scale

—$100,000 for water lines on South Palestine

—$100,000 Belt Press rental for both Waste Water Treatment Plants

—$24,000 for Chemical Scales at the Waste Water Treatment Plants

Utility Capital Projects, funded by grants, bonds, and utility fees include:

—$253,255 for water lines on Park, Prairieville, and Clinton

—$479,655 for water line construction on Walnut and Birch

—$250,000 for rehabilitation to Clarifier #1 at the Waste Water Treatment Plant

—$360,000 for water line construction on Edmondson

—$60,000 for water line design on Underwood and Baker

—$1,383,253 for a sewer line on N. Pinkerton

—$874,872 for sewer line construction on Edmondson

—$175,000 for rehabilitation to the West Waste Water Treatment Plant Trickling Filter

—$150,000 for Waste Water Treatment Plant improvements

—$39,555 for lift station design on Flat Creek

—$25,798 for preliminary design on the Waste Water Treatment Plant

Funding for the budget comes from a number of sources, but General Fund revenue mostly comes from Sales Tax, $6.528 million, and Ad Valorem tax, $4.496 million.

The proposed tax rate for the upcoming year is 0.566 per $100 valuation. This is a reduction of $0.079221 from the current year and marks the fourth straight year the tax rate has gone down. This proposed tax rate will also bring in less money than last year, marking the first time in at least 10 years that the total assessed has fallen.

The Utility Fund revenue comes mostly from water and sewer fees. The new budget proposes increasing the water bill .45 cents on the base and .26 cents per 1,000 gallons, and the sewer bill going up $1.75 on the base and .60 cents per 1,000 gallons.

This would mean the bill for a resident using 5,000 gallons would go from $67.80 to $72.58, an increase of $4.78.

A water rate study in October 2020 suggested this increase should go into effect two years ago, but the City put it on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say it is important to institute the increase now for much-needed repairs to water and sewer systems.