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Gainesville finances in the black, audit shows
Diverse revenue sources, cuts credited for citys budget surplus
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Gainesville City Council: Other business

n Council members decided Friday to move all 2011 meetings to 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan and council member George Wangemann argued for the change, saying community members told them they could only attend in the evenings because of work obligations.

Council members Myrtle Figueras and Bob Hamrick argued to keep one meeting in the morning to allow options for residents. Mayor Ruth Bruner asked to try the change for a year.

"I want to see if it helps the confusion, which many people have discussed with me," she said. "We may see a change in attendance when people know the meetings are always at the same time."

n City Manager Kip Padgett announced that city officials will create an Alcohol Ordinance Review Committee on Tuesday. The committee will review the city's current ordinance and recommend possible changes so it doesn't conflict with state law. Council members will approve the appointed members on Tuesday, and the group will present their findings to the council in March 2011.

"We had a lot of comments from local businesses about the ordinance," Padgett said. "This is an effort to get businesses and our staff together to look at any changes or conflicts with state law."

Carolyn Crist

Gainesville's finances are looking good, auditors told Gainesville City Council members at Friday's work session.

Despite drops in revenue, fiscal year 2010 is in the black with $7.9 million in reserves, said Chris Hollifield of Rushton & Company.

"To start with, the audit went very smooth," he said. "The staff did a great job, and you will receive a certificate of achievement for financial reporting."

As city council members held their first meeting in the new public safety complex on Queen City Parkway, auditors took time to explain how expenditures, revenues, reserve funds and the general fund has fluctuated over the past few years.

Like other local governments, expenditures are outpacing revenues for the year, but expenditure cuts shrank the gap from fiscal year 2009. Overall revenues were down $976,000, or 4.3 percent, which includes decreased revenue from property taxes by about 154,000, or 2.8 percent; franchise taxes by 585,000, or 12.1 percent; and occupational taxes by 174,000, or 13.5 percent.

"What accounts for that smaller bottom line this year is an increase of transfers from different accounts, and you had less transfers out for capital projects," Hollifield said.

Auditors didn't see any weaknesses in internal controls, and the big cash difference over last year came from ongoing budget cuts.

"The staff has made some wonderful decisions for us, and I thank them because they kept me from making hard decisions myself," Councilman George Wangemann said. "I've also appreciated departments participating in the process. We're one big family and one big team."

Wangemann asked Hollifield how Gainesville compares to surrounding governments during the tough economic times.

"Gainesville has done a good job of managing through the tough times," Hollifield said. "We recognize that revenues are going to be down, but it's looking better than 2009, so I would say you're faring very well. The general fund looks healthy, and that's always important to withstand the economic climate."

Gainesville is probably doing better with revenue because of the diverse revenue sources with property taxes, franchise taxes and others.

Mayor Ruth Bruner said she hopes the city can maintain those sources. City council members continue to express concerns to state legislators that moving to only sales taxes could make the revenue stream volatile and more dependent on the economy.

"You never like to have all your eggs in one basket, and many governments don't have the same diversity," Hollifield said.

Looking toward the future, Hollifield told council members to keep an eye on future liability concerns, which includes increasing unemployment claims. Due to the economy, the increase is occurring in local governments across the nation, and officials must stay aware.

Council member Bob Hamrick also noted a change in who pays the taxes in the city.

"The tax burden has shifted from property owners to industrial owners," he said. "Public utility revenue is also very dependent on the poultry industry. If they suffer, I shudder to see how we would pay dividends. We need to keep those folks happy."