Douglasville City Manager Bill Osborne said he expected more residents to participate in a public hearing in which a 2.86-mill increase in city property taxes was discussed, including a 1.86-mill property tax increase for fire and animal control services Douglas County provides city residents.
“Despite the attendance, I felt it was a good hearing and we had some good comments from our citizens,” Osborne said.
“We will definitely take a look at these comments, if not for this fiscal year budget, for future budgets as some of the comments had to do with fiscal planning.”
Douglasville City Councilman Mike Miller also expressed regret that only 11 residents attended the public hearing.
However, all but one Douglasville council member attended.
“Having 11 citizens in attendance was somewhat disconcerting,” Miller said. “However the public hearing was publicized in accordance with state law and we, as city officials, are being as transparent as possible.”
Douglasville’s proposed fiscal 2014-15 general fund budget is $23 million. It must be officially adopted Thursday before the beginning of the fiscal year July 1.
The one-mill increase for city services will generate $943,000 in revenue, Osborne said.
“In our budget discussions with city elected officials, it has been suggested that this $943,000 come from the general fund reserve instead of coming from increased property taxes,” Osborne said.
The general fund’s reserves contain about $4.5 million, which is needed to operate Douglasville city government for three months.
Osborne said the council has not decided if a tax increase, transfer of funds or a combination of these options will generate $943,000.
Miller said he was very cautious about using reserves to balance the budget.
“I have spoken with our city banking institution about this and one thing we don’t want to do is to reduce our reserve funds to the point where we jeopardize our city’s credit rating,” he said.
“Just as it is with an individual’s credit rating, for Douglasville to have a good [credit] rating helps us to be more financially successful and more productive. He said Douglasville’s mayor and city council are dealing with issues that have taken a decade or more to develop.
“We once had strong reserves but a previous administration dipped repeatedly into those reserves which reduced them,” Miller said.
“The present mayor and city council are being very careful in our approach to solving these issues.”
Another discussion in the public hearing dealt with the service delivery strategy agreement which Douglasville is negotiating with Douglas County.
Starting Jan. 1, Douglasville must start making direct payments to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for fire protection and animal control services.
On this matter, a new service delivery strategy will go into effect, which is required by state law.
In the past, owners of real estate property located within the city would pay for fire protection and animal control services as part of their respective property tax bill which they paid directly to Douglas County.
However, the new service delivery strategy agreement calls for a new plan.
“It provides that payment for these particular services would be made by Douglasville residents directly to the city,” Osborne said. “Then Douglasville would make an overall payment for these services to Douglas County."