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Flowery Branch utilities to jump, but no tax hike planned
City will also freeze employee pay and benefits
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To balance its tight 2011-12 budget, Flowery Branch is resorting to several approaches, including raising water and sewer rates by 2 percent, freezing employee pay and benefits and moving $133,330 from a reserve fund.

The good news is city employees won’t have monthly furloughs and residents should expect the property tax rate to remain the same.

City officials made the budget public Thursday and said it is “still a work in progress,” as the spending plan winds its way through two more public meetings in June. The council will adopt the budget at some point before it takes effect July 1.

Because of lower evaluations, property taxes are expected to fall 13.4 percent from what the city collected this year, $685,000, to $593,000 next fiscal year.

The South Hall city is operating this year with a $5.5 million budget, including $3.6 million in its general operations and other funds and $1.9 million for water and sewer operations.

That budget marked a 2.1 percent decrease from the previous year’s overall budget, which was $5.62 million.

Next year’s budget could fall to about $4.9 million, including $3.3 million in the general operations and other funds and $1.6 million for water and sewer operations.

“While these (reductions) seem small, it’s important to understand that they are in light of the fact that we have had considerable increases in our costs with fuel, electricity and insurance,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.

The utility rate increases — 2 percent for water and 2 percent for sewer — are needed “to maintain the current operating budget,” Andrew said.

Part of that is increasing the monthly utility bill charge for both services to $2.75 from $2.50.

“That figure has been in place for three years ... even with all the costs we’ve had going up associated with mailing, gas and labor,” Andrew said.

Also in the budget, the city is trimming its roads maintenance budget to $80,000 from $115,000, with most of the $80,000 already committed to a road project on McEver Road at Jim Crow Road/Gainesville Street.

However, the current roads budget includes stormwater costs and the city is breaking those expenses into a separate line item in fiscal 2012. The stormwater fund for 2012 is proposed at $30,000.

“The state has become more concerned about stormwater management within cities, particularly cities that have sewer and water plants,” Andrew said.

One other spot of good news for the city is that it should end the year with about $500,000 over its 90-day emergency fund of $648,537.

“With that in mind, we feel that the transfer of $133,330 is prudent because those funds are over our reserve target and could be put to work,” Andrew said.

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