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Flowery Branch proposes furloughs as part of budget cuts
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch employees could be taking a financial hit as part of the city’s budget plan for next fiscal year, starting July 1.

As part of his budget presentation to City Council on Wednesday morning, City Manager Bill Andrew proposed that employees would take one day of unpaid leave per month, a move expected to save the city $74,327.

No departments would be closed, as dates for the furloughs would be staggered throughout the city.

"These cuts represent a meaningful effort on behalf of the employees to absorb the city’s lack of revenue and yet still provide a high level of service to the public," Andrew said in a memo distributed to council members.

Also, the city plans to freeze salaries for the 2009-10 fiscal year and discontinue its match to the Mass Mutual 457 Retirement Program, saving another $13,834.

Andrew also said that to balance the budget, the city had to "postpone some important projects."

The budget process "has been a real effort," he said.

Overall, the city proposes to spend $4 million, compared to $3.5 million this budget year — a 15 percent increase.

The city’s general fund is increasing to nearly $3.1 million from $2.8 million mainly because of "higher health, property and liability insurance costs," Andrew said.

Also, the city has budgeted nearly $350,000 in its 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax fund, compared to $125,000 this year.

Voters countywide approved a six-year extension of the tax in March.

Andrew’s presentation followed a public hearing, which drew no speakers.

The council expects to adopt the budget in a meeting at 9:30 a.m. May 20 at City Hall, 5517 Main St.

The good news for taxpayers is that the city is not looking at raising taxes or fees.

Councilman Craig Lutz asked Andrew about future budget possibilities if the economy continues to sag.

"What the budget obviously doesn’t show is what we’re not doing, and there are many projects that are needed that we simply aren’t acting on," Andrew said.

"And it’s those things, in addition to just our rising costs to operate what we have now, that are going to be wanting in the future. If we do continue in this trend, it will be an issue of us having to spend the reserve account to some extent."

Andrew added that the city could arrive at a point "where we (decide to either) radically lower services ... or find other means of bringing in revenue."

He did offer up some good news concerning the budget.

The city had earmarked $294,523 from its reserves to balance this year’s budget.

"This year, we’re on target not to spend any of those dollars," Andrew said. "In fact, we may on target for $50,000 in the black. So what that means is we didn’t spend almost $350,000 this year that was budgeted by holding the line on projects we felt were unnecessary."

He added, "We think we can maintain that position for the (upcoming budget year). There are no reserve funds being budgeted for (next year)."

The city has a reserve of $986,216, "which puts us in a good position given the economic climate," Andrew said.

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