Finance Director Richard Chess said the budget is only a one percent increase from the previous year, but most of that increase belongs to a $1.7 million in contingency funds — the unappropriated money where revenue is slightly greater than expenditures.
Chess said not having a large increase from year to year in the budget is a measured effort by city staff.
“[It’s] a directive to control our spending and toe the line and not increase the budget substantially,” he said.
Not only has the city been careful in its spending, it has been able to do so without cutting personnel, creating furlough days for employees or even taking a large hit to providing services.
The city’s public information officer Gerald Walker said, in fact, the city has maintained its high service standards in spite of a downed economy.
“The city services are very robust and there is no reduction in our services, which actually are a lot more in depth than other cities around us,” Walker said. “We have two sanitation pick-ups a week, whereas all cities I know of have one a week and we’re able to continue to deliver that level of service. “We have some of the lowest utility rates in the region. We’re the second lowest electrical suppliers as far as rates go in the state.” Chess said most of the cuts have gone toward capital improvement projects and operating costs, such as travel, supplies and expenses.
“Even though we have budget constraints, we’re still delivering an excellent level of service,” Walker said.
The city isn’t expecting much decrease from its tax digest, Chess said, though officials won’t know exactly how the digest stands until August.
At that point, the city will decide whether it wants to increase its millage rate, though he said for now, the city does not anticipate needing to do so.
Chess said the city has also been successful in not having to dip into its reserve fund, which he estimated to currently stand at $16 million, give or take a few million pending the audit the city has yet to receive. The College Park City Council met Monday to discuss adopting the proposed budget, which fell after press time. According to state law, counties and municipalities must adopt their budget before the new fiscal year begins July 1.