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The FY 2015 city of Tifton budget was presented to the City Council at their recent regular meeting.

City Manager Larry Riner gave the presentation and told council members that in accordance with Georgia law and the city charter, the FY 2015 proposed budget is balanced, totaling $43.4 million for all funds.

He briefly went over the following general fund budget highlights:

- Total budget of $12,557,077

- Net ad valorem tax decrease of $12,000 based on preliminary consolidation report

- LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) collections down approximately $90,000

- Health insurance increase of $218,000 due to premium changes

- Decrease of $2 million primarily due to removal of Bandwidth activities

- Overall salary increase of $204,000 to fund authorized vacant and part-time positions

- Increase in capital outlay

Riner said they reduced the CityNet debt by almost $4 million this year alone. He said the largest areas where the revenue comes from are LOST, ad valorem taxes, franchise tax and charges for services.

Riner said the three largest budget areas for the city are the police and fire departments and public works. He said those each had an increase in their health insurance this year. In 2013, they were at $1.2 million and for 2014, the budget is about $1 million. They're projecting to be back up to $1.2 million for 2015.

Riner said liability and workers' compensation insurance is a moving target the city has to keep working on, and they're looking at workers' comp to go from $359,000 to $391,000. However, the GIRMA liability cost went down.

"We feel like that's directly related to the reduction in employees we have," he said.

Riner went over the statement of revenues over expenditures and commented, "We're doing pretty well." Following FY 2011, they went positive in 2012, 2013 and are expected to have a slight increase again for 2014.

"The reason this is happening is because of these employees out here are not spending money. They're working smarter, not harder," Riner said. "We also have not allowed capital purchases."

As far as the hotel/motel fund, the projected tax is $863,000 (average nine month trend – approximately $72,000). The overall change is a $76,000 increase. Major changes in this fund include airport operations - $35,000, Chamber of Commerce UGA Group - $15,000, Tourism Board - $32,000 increase and Keep Tift Beautiful - $15,000.

Riner said the city's Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds account for financial resources provided from the 1 percent LOST. These resources are restricted for projects outlined in the referendum approved by the citizens of Tifton. The city has two SPLOST funds, SPLOST IV and SPLOST V. SPLOT IV collections ended Dec. 31, 2012, and SPLOST V collections began Jan. 1, 2013. He noted in the FY 2015 budget, they have $2.193 million of SPLOST money to retire CityNet debt completely.

Riner said the city’s enterprise funds are not supported by tax dollars. They are supported by service and user fees.

The city has five enterprise funds, which have the following balanced budgets: water - $3,730,447, sewer - $3,981,530 (includes proposed 10 percent base and consumption rate increase per thousand gallons), gas - $4,647,649, solid waste collection and disposal - $5,573,153 and Tift Theatre - $452,697.

Riner said the recommended budget will allow the city to maintain quality of the community, provide enhanced public safety, allow for better employment opportunities and assist in increasing employee morale and retention.

The first public hearing on the proposed FY 2015 budget will be held at 5 p.m. June 12. Adoption of the proposed budget will be held at 5 p.m. June 19.

The budget presentation is available on the city's website at www.tifton.net and at City Hall.

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