Satisfied with the city manager’s proposed budget, the Gainesville City Council is prepared to adopt the fiscal year 2015 spending plan next month without any changes.
“Overall, I think it’s a very good budget,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.
The $30.3 million general fund budget includes no tax increases.
At a council work session Thursday, city officials agreed to keep the millage rate at $3.06 per $1,000 of taxable property.
Of that total, $1.77 will be used to fund general government expenses, including administration and public safety. Parks and recreation operations will be supported with $0.79, and $0.50 will go toward covering government debt.
Meanwhile, the millage rate for the Gainesville Board of Education will remain fixed at $7.59 per $1,000 of taxable property, and no amount will be spent on debt service.
“I went into this year saying no tax increase,” Dunagan said.
Councilman George Wangemann said keeping taxes flat helps build trust between government officials and city residents, and he has no desire to spend more of the public’s money than is necessary.
“I don’t think I care to see any more funding for anything right now,” Wangemann said. “I don’t like to see major increases in the budget.”
But a slowly improving economic forecast begs the question of whether the city should increase its service load.
Officials said they are cautious and asked each department to keep its funding request flat this year. The current fiscal year’s budget is about $29.8 million.
“We are fortunate that the economy is improving,” Councilman Bob Hamrick said. “I think that’s the good news. We are able to operate with the same level of service.”
Council members said they were pleased to incorporate merit raises for some city employees in the budget.
“I think it’s a good thing to award your best employees,” Councilman Sam Couvillon said.
Council members also back additional capital spending, including a $3 million transfer from the general fund to help support road improvements and begin implementing the city’s transportation plan.
“Roads affect everybody, even nondrivers,” Wangemann said. “I think that’s one we can all agree on.”
Additionally, $325,000 will be transferred from the city’s hotel/motel tax fund to support capital costs.
Public safety services once again account for more than half the general fund budget, totaling about $15.5 million.
Meanwhile, total employee benefits are projected to cost about $9.2 million next year, up from about $7.52 million.
“With the little bit that we do have, we’ve done a lot of improvement,” Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said.
The council is expected to formally adopt the budget at its June 17 meeting. The 2015 fiscal year begins July 1.