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Oakwood moves closer to 2014 budget approval
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After no one showed for Monday evening’s budget hearing, Oakwood City Council appears poised to go forward with its no-frills 2014 spending plan.

The council waited several minutes before closing the hearing at City Hall, offering no comments of its own.

Basically, the $6.8 million budget would continue city services without increasing staff. It also would pay debt obligations for various items, including a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan and the city’s own sewer fund, which it pulled from to pay for emergency repairs related to May 19 floods.

The council voted in June on a resolution calling for the city to reimburse the sewer fund from its general fund, which is supported partially by property taxes, in the amount of $163,444 by Dec. 31 and the balance of $326,889 by Dec. 31, 2014.

Now, the city is looking at paying itself back by about $165,000 annually over three years, City Manager Stan Brown said.

The city ended up replacing a culvert on Mud Creek at McEver Road, near the city’s border with Flowery Branch, reopening that stretch of road on Aug. 1, a day earlier than expected.

Oakwood’s budget would continue several capital programs, including a sewer project with Braselton, vehicle and equipment replacement, Oakwood Industrial Park development and a downtown sewer project supported by special purpose local option sales tax revenue.

Also, city employees would get a 1.4 percent cost-of-living raise and a step increase based on performance.

The budget breaks down into three major categories: $3.72 million general fund; $410,000, SPLOST; and $2.67 million, sewer fund.

The council is set to adopt the budget at its next regular monthly meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle.

The good news for residents is that the council has voted to keep the tax rate the same at 2.658 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value.

The budget, which takes effect Jan. 1, does call for a first-time user fee for the South Hall city’s sewer customers.

To help shore up the fund, some $245,000 in fees would need to be raised, officials have said.

Under the plan, Oakwood customers on Gainesville sewer would pay an additional $2 per month on their base rate, raising it to $10.40 per hundred cubic feet, or 748 gallons, from $8.40.

The Oakwood add-on for Flowery Branch customers would be based on usage.

Businesses that use up to 7,000 gallons of Flowery Branch sewer would see a base rate of $97.30, up from $40.53; and businesses that use more than 7,000 gallons would see their rate increase to $13.90 per 1,000 gallons, from $5.79.

The add-on would be as high as $22 per month for residential customers using between 2,501 and 4,500 gallons per month.

The city's tax base, however, is mostly commercial.

The city plans to mail out tax bills on Dec. 2.