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Gainesville braces for less money in budget
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GAINESVILLE — The city of Gainesville may be running on a slimmer budget in the coming fiscal year than in years past.

A lag in construction and an uncertain economy has Gainesville’s financial experts projecting revenues for this fiscal year to be less than had been expected. But Gainesville City Manager Brian Shuler insists the outlook is not so grim.

"I don’t think there’s any department in the city that if this budget were approved close to where it’s presented today will be lacking in their ability to provide the day to day services that our citizens and businesses have come to expect," Shuler said.

Shuler said at this point, no increase has been proposed for millage rates on property taxes, but the budget has not yet been balanced.

Shuler told the City Council at Monday’s budget meeting that there may be less spending on capital projects funded by the general fund in the coming year because the city needs the money to balance the deficits in the budget "and we’re still not there."

Some of the main uncertainties that city officials face when dealing with fiscal year 2009 will be answered by the time the Georgia legislature ends its session, Shuler said.

If franchise fees are eliminated from the city’s revenue, then Gainesville officials will have to start finding ways to make up for the eventual loss of nearly $4 million in future budgets. Shuler said without the revenue from franchise fees, the city would have no option but to raise property taxes.

After Gainesville CFO Melody Marlowe and Jay Mancin presented their projections for the current fiscal year, six department heads presented their budget requests to the council for fiscal year 2009.

The city manager’s office estimates a 6.3 percent decrease in expenditures over the current year’s budget. After the office’s records manager left, the position was filled by an employee of the clerk’s office.

The city’s financial services and information technology department wants to add about $150,000 to its budget. Some of the change can be attributed to an administrative position in the city marshal’s office that was rolled into the financial services department. Some of the money would fund upgrades in the city’s computer networks to allow city employees better access to citywide and personal user folders.

The city’s human resources department requested $493,851 for the fiscal year — almost $8,000 less than the current year’s budget. The department wants $14,000 to create an employee information center where city employees can come to the office to look up information about their health benefits.

The city’s planning department has requested $623,448 — nearly $2,500 less than what the department was allotted in the current year’s budget, but the department will have to begin budgeting for an upcoming required update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan that must be completed by June 2011.

The city’s inspections department projects a 2 percent increase in spending in the coming fiscal year. The department expects to spend $16,500 more in fiscal year 2009 than the $401,000 that had been budgeted for the department’s personal services, because of rising insurance costs, said Larry Brown, inspections services manager.

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