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Flowery Branch prepares to carve next year's budget
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FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch City Council is gearing up for budget season.

City Manager Bill Andrew presented a tentative schedule for council members Wednesday morning, beginning with water and sewer rate proposals in early March and ending with a vote on the 2009-10 budget in May or June.

A public hearing on the budget, which takes effect July 1, could take place in early May. The schedule didn’t include specific dates.

Council members talked some about the homeowner tax relief grant, which Gov. Sonny Perdue decided to fund based on an infusion of cash from the just-passed federal stimulus package.

Perdue signed legislation on Tuesday to funnel $428 million to the grant, which is worth about $200 to $300 per household, but city officials were concerned about its shakiness for next year’s budget.

"Setting the budget from the get-go, should we keep (the grant) in mind? Should we not pass it along next year to the residents or should we pass it along and not count on seeing that revenue come in?" asked Councilman Craig Lutz.

"My preference would be not to count on that revenue," Andrew said. "Then, if it comes in, it’s a bonus."

In other business, the council voted on first reading to strike language about minimum water and sewer rate increases from a city law.

The city had agreed to raise rates 20 percent each year for five years to cover bond payments that had financed sewer plant improvements.

"The revenue being raised for that was never about 100 percent or 20 percent," Andrew told the council. "It was about meeting the bond requirement, which states we have to have revenue coming in that’s 115 percent of our costs for the payment of the bond, and that we have done this year."

The 20 percent increase "would happen this year if we didn’t make this change," Andrew added.

He said he hopes next year’s rates "will be quite similar" to rates now.

"We will be discussing utility rates here soon, and those will be going hand in hand with how we’ll be setting (next year’s) budget," Andrew said.