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No tax increase or utility rate hike in Cairo budget

Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton unveiled his proposed 2011-2012 operating budget Monday night and the spending plan calls for a three percent pay raise for city workers, but no increase in property taxes or utility rates.
The total proposed budget is $38,222,724, which is up from the current spending plan of $35,976,204, but down from the requested budget of $39,349,422.
Addleton does not yet know the amount of increase the city will experience for health insurance, but he says that the current budget has approximately $80,000 in surplus funds he hopes will cover the anticipated increase.
The city manager also plans to increase CNS rates should programming costs increase. According to Addleton, the four cities that make up CNS evaluate programming costs and determine any necessary rate increases, with the adjusted rates to take affect in January.
“We will pass along any increased programming costs to our subscribers,” the city manager said.
Although the city manager’s budget does not call for a property tax hike, that does not mean that the council will not have to raise the millage rate.
Because of an expected 10 percent reduction in the county’s tax digest, Addleton pointed out that a higher millage rate would be necessary to generate the same amount of property tax revenue when the millage rate is applied to the smaller digest.
“The millage will be higher, but the amount of taxes you pay should be the same,” Addleton clarified.
The city continues to benefit from increased sales of electricity and Addleton is budgeting for an increase of $1,021,370 over the current budget in anticipated sales revenue and proceeds from the city’s investment in the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia’s Municipal Competitive Trust.
However, the city manager is reducing the projected sales of natural gas by nearly $80,000 due to lower sales volume over the past two years.
The proposed budget includes a number of capital projects including a number of infrastructure improvements and new vehicles and equipment.
The Cairo Police Department will be authorized to purchase two new patrol vehicles for total cost of $56,000 and will also purchase new vehicle camera systems at a cost of $9,000.
The 2011-2012 budget includes funding for breathing apparatus bottle replacements and a compressor for the fire department, in addition to new carpeting and $25,000 to begin completion of an upstairs training facility at the fire department.
Addleton has built in $105,000 to construct a new Community Services Department headquarters to replace the existing city barn. The new 40 foot x 60 foot building will also include offices and restrooms for Community Services personnel.
The capital budget also includes $300,000 to install the full site soil vapor extraction gas system at the city’s sanitary landfill as required by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division. Addleton points out that the funding for this project will come from the landfill restricted account designated for closure and post closure costs.
The electric division will benefit from a $150,000 investment in infrastructure improvements to circuits on the electric distribution system, as well as $255,000 for a new digger derrick truck.
In the gas department, the city manager is looking to replace a 1999 and a 2000 model trucks at a total cost of $70,000.
The city manager is budgeting $250,000 to finance the extension of a city water line on Airport Road to connect with a new water well and treatment plant planned to be constructed on airport property at a cost of $1,750,000, which is included n the 2011-2012 budget.
The budget document reveals $450,000 is also budgeted for the rehabilitation of water plant #1 at the Energy Services complex on 1st Ave. S.W. The work must be done as part of making the new elevated tank on the southwest side of the city functional.
Another vehicle included in the budget is a replacement for a 1989 model at the wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $20,000.
The city council met Monday night with Hal Wiedeman, consulting engineer with the firm of Wiedeman & Singleton, to discuss the need to replace the sewer lift station on 7th Ave. S.E. Councilmen unanimously agreed that project needs to get underway and Addleton has budgeted $600,000 for it.
Items not included in the proposed budget, but identified as needs by the city department heads and city manager, include a new residential garbage truck, a new police department headquarters, a new public works department headquarters, and a $250,000 local match should the city be awarded a Transportation Enhancement Grant for the downtown master plan project. Addleton hopes to learn in the next several weeks if the city’s grant application is approved.
As for personnel, the city manager is proposing increasing the staff of the fire department by one to add a captain/training officer. The city manager has reduced the number of budgeted positions in the landfill department by one and the gas department by two.
He is also proposing to create a new position in a city economic development office and the successful candidate would be tasked with developing a Main Street program for Cairo, recruiting and developing more retail businesses here, marketing for CNS locally rather than out of Thomasville and possibly other duties.
The city manager asked for the council to consider this new position and to give him feedback over the course of the next several days.
“We need to get serious about downtown and look at becoming a Main Street city. Someone who could spearhead the Downtown Development Authority and do more CNS marketing ourselves rather than doing it all in Thomasville,” Addleton said.
Councilman Ernest Cloud asked if Addleton had developed a salary and job description for the position. The city manager responded he would open the job internally to begin with.
Mayor Richard VanLandingham said the new position could be an “advantage” to the city. “Retail development is so important. The position will pay for itself real quick and there are grants we are currently not eligible for that we could possible receive as a Main Street city,” the mayor said.
Councilman Kermit Gilliard reminded his fellow councilmen the council was sold on hiring a CNS marketing official several years ago and the same promise was made then. “We were told sales would increase enough to earn the salary,” Gilliard said.
The city manager suggested the council take the budget proposal and consider all of it, including the new positions, and to communicate with him any questions or concerns.
“I think you’ve done a good job with it,” Mayor VanLandingham told Addleton.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Monday, May 16, at 6 p.m. Draft copies of the proposed budget are available for review in the city manager’s office at City Hall from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily.

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