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Lula OKs 2015-16 budget
Plan gives residents pass on property taxes again
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Lula City Council voted unanimously Monday night to OK a $941,460 spending plan for 2015-16, giving residents another pass on paying property taxes.

The new budget takes effect July 1. Council members passed it without discussion.

The budget goes up almost 16 percent over this year's amount of $812,950, with expenses increasing or dropping in various items across the board.

The biggest dollar increase is health insurance, which “is the kicker for everybody,” City Manager Dennis Bergin has said.

But there are other big jumps in costs. More money has been set aside for legal and engineering expenses, sidewalk repairs, and street repair and maintenance.

The budget shows employee health care insurance costs rising from $22,500 to $56,000, a nearly 150 percent increase.

On the positive side, however, the city also projects revenues from local option sales taxes, or LOST, to increase from $276,000 to $385,000.

“We’re doing all this without a property tax increase,” Mayor Milton Turner has said of the budget “We have a property tax. We’ll just roll it back to zero.”

The council approved the budget following public hearings, including one earlier on Monday. No one attended the hearings, officials said.

City Council also approved a separate budget of nearly $600,000 for water/sewer operations, increasing from about $572,741. Water and sewer users mainly help foot the bill.

The city has another nearly $636,000 slated for capital projects next fiscal year, funded by special purpose local option sales tax revenue, the previous year general fund revenue and other miscellaneous income.

The biggest expense is $150,000 for sewer line replacement.

“We’re talking about lines that were put in the ground back in the 1970s,” Turner has said.

Also planned is $100,000 for water system improvements and $120,000 for road resurfacing.

The city also is looking to spend $30,000 in improvements at Veterans Park downtown and $50,000 to further carry out its seven-phase “streetscape” plan, sprucing up downtown with new sidewalks, landscaping and other touches.

Next year’s work would include sidewalks and drains along Main Street between Athens Street and City Hall.

“That ($50,000) is our matching amount if we get the money that was awarded to us four years ago,” Turner said.

The city has been funding work through Transportation Enhancement money from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The state’s Transportation Enhancement program used to be funded by federal transportation money, but it faded out after Congress passed its Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a 27-month transportation spending bill, in 2012.

The grant typically required a 20 percent match from the governments approved for projects.