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As Statesboro Budget Balloons, City Preps for Tax Increases – Now, Later, or Both

The following information is based on the FY 2023 proposed budget for the City of Statesboro. The complete 276-page budget can be found on the city’s website.

The budget for the City of Statesboro is approximately $87 million when accounting for general fund expenditures, SPLOST, water & sewer accounts, and other restricted funds.

A little less than 25% of the total budget is General Fund Operations.

EXPENDITURES

City Employees

The city anticipates employing 343 employees across departments. FY 2023 accounts for 2 new police officer positions – a patrol officer and a detective. There are no other personnel additions in any department other than ‘Central Services’ which:

  • moves a part-time administrative assistant to a full-time position.
  • adds a facilities full-time manager
  • adds one part-time janitor and one full-time janitor

Additionally, compensation and benefits proposals include a 4% pay plan adjustment due to inflation, continuation of pay for performance, no increase in employee premiums, an annual employee bonus of $500, and to add Good Friday as a holiday.

Creation of the Children’s Zone Project

This idea was brought forth at the council retreat earlier this year. Essentially, churches and other entities would ‘adopt a zone’ and coordinate volunteers to deliver services on academics and literacy with the idea of ‘bettering the workforce,’ retaining good people, and ‘reducing the footprint as it relates to crime.’  Funding for a program manager was sought with a $120,000 budget for establishing the program, interns, and some start up services.

The Governing Body’s budget has increased 66% since FY 2020.
Similarly, the City Manager’s Office budget has increased by over $109,000 in the last four years.

Screencap of expenditures summary for the Governing Body from FY 2023 budget

The complete budget for the Governing Body is below.

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The complete budget for the City Manager is below.

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Information on the operations of the Police Department and their performance measures can be found at the bottom of the article.

REVENUE

Property Taxes

The City is anticipating $6,824,285 in property taxes, up from $5,200,000 in FY 2022 – or ~7%. 

City Manager Charles Penny reported to council that 25% of the city’s total value for real and personal property is non-taxable. Penny told council that between the City, the County, and the Board of Education, the City has the lowest tax rate – an understandable point given that the others serve a larger population across a larger area.

Fund Balance

The city is planning to utilize “a significant amount” of fund balance to balance the upcoming year’s budget. A fund balance is basically a reserve account of assets which is available after satisfying outstanding liabilities. Specifically, the City of Statesboro is planning to use $1,135,098 in fund balance to balance the General Fund and $339,246 in fund balance to balance the Fire Service Fund. This will be the second year in a row that the city has relied so heavily on the fund balance to balance the budget. In FY 2022, the city appropriated $ 1,150,691 from the fund balance.

Note: While the budget documents show FY 2023 using $1,135,098 in fund balance to balance the General Fund budget, city council meeting minutes show $2,062,653.

Other Revenues

The City is also expecting a combined ~$392,500 in revenue from liquor sales – either wholesale, retail, or package and another $225,000 in alcohol license fees. An additional $7,500 in ‘Alcohol Related Citations’ is budgeted outside of other municipal court fines and jail fees.

All in all, $19,469,755 is budgeted in total revenues to the General Fund with an additional $1,135,098 from the fund balance for a grand total of $20,604,853 for FY 2023’s General Fund (excluding SPLOST, water/sewer accounts, etc). The total is a 21.51% increase over FY 2022.

TAX INCREASE?

City Manager Charles Penny asked council members to consider a millage rate increase. “If there is not one this year we would be faced with one next year.”

One mill will bring in approximately $700,000.  

When asked how much would be needed, Penny was not clear.

  • “If we raise it by 1 mill, we would still have to use about $1.4 million dollars in fund balance.”
  • “If we raise it by 2 mills, we would spend about $600,000 of the fund balance. There’s a chance with $600,000 we may not spend it.”
  • “We could also look at an increase of 1.5 mills that would get us where we were only spending 1 million out of the fund balance.”

Penny cited ‘the increase in personnel cost and the proposed increase for next year’s budget’ as the reasons for the needed increase. He said a 1 mill or 1.5 mill increase may still require an increase in FY 2024. “ We would like to get the millage rate where hopefully we see growth.”

Finance Director Cindy West said a 2 mill increase would amount to $120 per year on a $150,000 home.

Councilmember Venus Mack stated if the City is going to continue to do great things this is inevitable and that she is comfortable with a rate increase of 1.5 or 2 mills.

Councilmember Paulette Chavers stated she is also comfortable raising the rate but that it should be done slowly. 

Jessica Szilagyi

administrator
Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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