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Don’t be surprised if electric bills jump up

There is not a utility rate hike included in the proposed 2013-2014 operating budget for the City of Cairo, but that doesn’t mean the monthly bills for city ratepayers will not increase in the next fiscal year.
In fact, city officials anticipate passing on a projected five percent increase in the cost of electricity straight to the city’s approximately 5,000 electric customers.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton unveiled the proposed 2013-2014 spending plan to city councilmen Monday night.
In his budget briefing, the city manager noted that the power generation costs from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia is budgeted to increase approximately seven percent or from $9.7 million to $10.3 million.
Costs to comply with environmental regulations are also bumping up the city’s cost of power from $1.3 million to approximately $1.6 million in the next fiscal year.
“Bottom line we are looking at about a five percent increase in the cost of power,” Addleton told the council.
The city manager is not proposing any increase in rates for water, sewer, gas or garbage collection in 2013-2014.
CNS Cable rates will be reviewed later this year and could likely be increased in January.
Addleton is also looking to keep ad valorem taxes unchanged. To put the budget in perspective, the city manager noted that the annual receipts from city property taxes is approximately $1,250,000 which basically cover the cost of operating the city fire department for a year.
“Right now police and fire make up just over 50 percent of the general fund,” Addleton said.
To raise additional revenue, but yet remain competitive with other area governments Addleton is proposing increased landfill tipping fees.
The city manager’s survey of fees charged by Thomasville and Decatur County, which both operate sanitary landfills, indicate the Cairo rates are below the southwest Georgia average.
According to Addleton, the average tipping fee is $30.25 per ton. Cairo currently charges $27.50 per ton compared to $29 in Thomasville and $32 at the Decatur County landfill.
On construction and demolition debris, the southwest Georgia average is $22.83 per ton, Thomasville charges $19.50 per ton and Decatur County is at $32 per ton.
Under Addleton’s proposal the new rate would go to $30 and maintain the construction and demolition rate at $21.50 per ton.
The city is currently seeking certification to begin accepting tires at the landfill.
“We want to encourage people to bring tires to the landfill rather than putting them in dumpsters or leaving them on the roadside or in ditches. We will charge a minimum fee to offset our costs,” Addleton said.
Tires, with no rims, for cars and trucks will cost $2 per tire, large truck tires will be $8 each and tractor tires will be accepted for $30 per tire.
The city will also encourage residents to bring whitegoods and recyclable metals to the landfill rather than putting them on the roadside. There will be no charge for whitegoods or recyclable metals, but Addleton predicts more of those type materials will continue to end up in scrap yards rather than at the landfill.
The $40,862,581 proposed budget does include a three percent raise for all city employees. The budget also holds the line on the number of employees at 174, which is down from 181.5 in 2008-2009.
In addition to increased cost of electric power generation, the budget in the next fiscal year will be driven by the installation of a full site soil vapor extraction system at the city’s landfill at a projected cost of $450,000 as well as the airport water well and treatment plant at an estimated cost of $3,000,000.
The budget includes $700,000 for phase 3 of the city’s street resurfacing master plan as well as $100,000 to complete the resurfacing and installation of curb and gutters on 11th Avenue N.W.
Building on the success of the revitalization of Davis Park, the city manager is budgeting $75,000 for improvements to Azalea Park as well as $75,000 for a portion of the match on the $750,000 grant for the downtown streetscape project.
The proposed budget also maintains the funding for non-departmental agencies that receive city support.
Roddenbery Memorial Library funding is preserved at $237,500 along with others including: Ferst Foundation – $4,000; Joint Development Authority – $41,000; Holder Park Pool – $40,000; Boys & Girls Club – $4,000; Keep Cairo-Grady County Beautiful – $19,000; Downtown Facade Program – $15,000; Downtown Development Authority – $15,000; and Archway Partnership – $10,000.
“The budget is getting tighter, tighter and tighter. We can fund the budget, but there is a trick to managing timing issues and cash flow. I applaud Miriam (Faircloth, city finance director) and all of the department heads on the good job they have done to manage the budget. It is becoming more and more of a challenge,” Addleton said.
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on Thursday, May 30 at 6 p.m. in the council chamber inside the Roddenbery Building on North Broad Street.
Final adoption will be voted on Monday, June 20 at 6 p.m.
The city’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

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