BRASELTON — Health insurance costs have driven the town of Braselton’s budget up $154,000 for the 2009 fiscal year, making up about 12 percent of the total proposed budget.
The total general revenue for the town is an estimated $2,985,000, an increase of $178,115. Total expenditures are $2,609,657 after debt service, up over last year’s tally of $2,348,299.
Across the board some of the largest cost increases come in medical insurance. Insurance for library staff will cost $24,000, up $10,000 from last year. Similarly, medical insurance has more than doubled for police department employees, up from $100,000 to $214,500.
The police and library, along with the planning and budget departments and municipal court, will be spending their second full year in new facilities. According to Town Manager Jennifer Scott, the jumps in insurance cost for these departments and services are the result of a better understanding of the price of insuring staff in the new buildings.
Insurance benefits also will be reduced for police department employees in order to keep premiums in check, according to Scott. Overall police salaries will drop from $512,000 to $488,000 in the next year. The chief of police will receive a $1,000 raise to $70,000.
"The insurance increases and gas increases, as well as the cost of maintenance and operation of the police/court building are the main reason for increases in their budget," Scott said.
Gas is expected to cost the department about $10,000 more this year, even with the new bicycle patrol initiative. The town also is implementing a safety program to mitigate workers’ comp claims, which are expected to total around $45,000. Overall, the cost per call to Braselton police will rise from $34.50 to $44.05.
Other highlights of the town’s budget include an estimated $41,500 revenue increase by the Braselton Visitors Bureau Authority, a $150,000 revenue increase in electric franchise and a $45,000 revenue increase in liquor tax.
There also will be a $97,000 cost increase for consulting fees for the town’s comprehensive plan, a policy guide for future growth of the town mandated by the state of Georgia. This cost will be filed under the planning and development department.
According to Scott, the comprehensive plan for the town is due in 2010, and it normally takes 18 months to put together because of its legal complexity and the specifications required by the state Department of Community Affairs. Most governments outsource the job to firms who specialize in such work.
"I don’t know any government that does its comp plan with its current staff," Scott said.
By comparison, the city of Gainesville’s comprehensive plan costs about $90,000 and will be compiled by consultants, Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler said. Even with a large planning staff, it’s difficult to put together the entire document without having some consulting work, he said.
At the Town Council’s work session on June 5, Mayor Pat Graham praised Planning and Development Director Kevin Keller for not overstaffing during the town’s peak permitting year in 2006. His restraint and hard work, she said, prevented the department from shedding jobs during the economic downturn, a fate most governments are currently facing.
The town doesn’t expect to add or subtract any employees in the coming year.
Graham also was pleased with the financial health of the town reflected in its 5:1 debt service ratio.
That means that Braselton has "$5 available to pay every $1 in debt payments," Scott said.
Currently, the council has not set a date for passing the budget. By Georgia law, there must be a week between the public hearing of the budget, which occurred June 5, and its passage.