By Florence Rankin

TIFTON - The City of Tifton has more than five months' operating expenses in reserve and is in "very sound financial condition," accountant James Herring told council members Monday.

Presenting the city's annual audit, Herring said administrators should be "commended for keeping the city in that sound a shape." Accountants normally recommend that governments keep a reserve of two to three months' operating expenses in general funds.

The city ended the 2001 fiscal year with $3.8 million, coming in under budget despite receiving lower interest and general government revenues than expected. Total revenues were less than projected, but expenses were also less, leaving $400,006 to be added to the general fund balance.

Although the CityNet telecommunications system showed a net loss of $1.2 million for the year, Herring said he attributes its problems to a lag between start up and full operation.

"With these things, when you're just going into it, there's a lot of expense up front," said Herring. "If you look at what it's doing now, the picture is somewhat more favorable."

The council heard Herring's report on the audit at its May workshop and will vote on whether to accept the audit June 3.

Council members also heard a report on construction projects by Assistant City Manager Billy George and took formal possession of a piece of artwork chosen at the Love Affair festival.

Artist Georgia Roswell of Sparks presented the artwork, an agricultural scene rendered in recycled cotton fibers. The piece will hang upstairs in City Hall along with others purchased at previous Love Affairs.

Several city employees were recognized for outstanding service, including Chief David Spires and Lt. Raymond Drennon of the Tifton Police Department. Spires and Drennon were instrumental in the arrest of a bank robbery suspect last week.

Items on the June agenda include bids on two pickup trucks and a backhoe loader and second reading of a land use reclassification request for the northwest corner of Woodlawn and Poplar streets.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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