likely to go
up in July
The Cairo City Council got its first look Monday night at the 2014-2015 operating budget as proposed by City Manager Chris Addleton.
If approved, city water customers will pay an extra $4 per month for residential water service and general service water customers will pay $2 per month more.
Addleton is looking to bump the base water fee from $6 to $10 for residential customers. Residential customers outside the corporate limits will see the base fee increase from $12 per month to $20 per month.
General service water accounts will pay $12 per month, which is up from $10 per month. Those same type customers outside the city limits will pay $24 per month, up from $20 per month.
Sewer base charges and rates will remain unchanged.
Addleton said the increase in the base fee is necessary to cover the costs of providing and maintaining the infrastructure to deliver water to each household and business.
On top of additional expenses, city officials are trying to determine why water revenues have dropped to a three-year low.
Addleton reported that in January the city pumped 32 million gallons and billed out $84,546.69; in February the city pumped only 27.8 million gallons but billed out $92,188.40; then in March the city pumped 26.2 million gallons and billed out only $76,096.92, which is a three-year low.
Addleton said he is researching to determine what is causing the fluctuation between gallons pumped and the monthly water revenue.
The city manager is also anticipating the added cost to treat city water for arsenic when the new water well and plant to be constructed at the Cairo Municipal Airport goes on line, which will impact the budget.
In addition to these rate hikes, the city manager is increasing water and sewer tap fees for new service locations to bring the tap fees more in line with other jurisdictions.
“I have done some research on how our rates compare to other water and sewer systems by similar numbers of accounts and within 50 miles of Cairo. The results seem to indicate that we are low as it relates to water and about the middle of the pack as it relates to sewer,” Addleton told the council.
No other utility rate hikes or property tax hike is anticipated in the proposed $41,915,222 spending plan.
The proposed budget includes a two percent raise for city personnel. Also impacting the budget is a 14 percent increase the city must pay for its portion of the retirement fund for city workers and an eight percent increase in the cost of property and liability insurance.
Addleton said that the city’s cost for Worker’s Compensation Insurance has dropped 23.6 percent which results in a $54,144 annual savings in premium.
The city manager has included the purchase of three new vehicles for the police department; a new pickup for the fire department; a new pickup for the public works department; a new bucket truck for CNS Cable; and financing for a new garbage truck.
The proposed budget also includes $750,000 to replace the Lullwater Lift Station as well as $75,000 for improvements to Azalea Park.
The biggest single capital investment in the tentative budget is $3.5 million for the construction of the new airport water well and plant. The new plant will be designed to treat the city’s supply of drinking water for naturally occurring arsenic.
Under Addleton’s spending plan the city will employ four fewer employees in the new fiscal year. Total employment of operational personnel is 155.
During the discussion of funding for outside agencies Mayor Pro Tem Lannis Thornton and Councilman Ernest Cloud made a plea for increasing funding for the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club.
Currently, the city is funding the Boys & Girls Club at the $4,000 level, which Addleton said basically covers the utilities for the facility, which the council allows the club to use at no charge.
“Why don’t we fund the Boys and Girls Club more? We were funding $19,500 for Holder Park. Why don’t we give that to them?” the mayor pro tem asked.
“My understanding is the Boys and Girls Club is struggling for finances. I know we didn’t give money to the Zebulon, but I see this more in our scope of helping children. I’d like to see that $4,000 increased to at least $25,000,” Councilman Cloud said.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas reminded the council the Boys & Girls Club is supposed to be funded through contributions.
“I’m not saying ‘no’ but I’d have to think about it. It’s food for thought,” Douglas said.
“It’s a benefit to our city and a lot of kids go down there and the club keeps them out of trouble,” Mayor Pro Tem Thornton said.
Councilmen also discussed how $19,000 appropriated for Keep Cairo/Grady County Clean & Beautiful is spent. Addleton said it primarily goes to the salary of Celeste Tyler.
“Are we getting the bang for our buck from Clean & Beautiful and the other programs she heads up? I just don’t hear of anything much being done,” Councilman Cloud commented.
The city manager said that Tyler would be managing the Mainstreet program and had participated in training for that program. She also will be responsible for managing the city’s streetscape program, according to Addleton.
Councilman Kermit Gilliard questioned what Clean and Beautiful projects were being done currently. “There used to be some programs at the schools, a telephone book recycling and Christmas tree recycling, but to my knowledge none of that is being done anymore,” Gilliard said.
The council took no action on the budget Monday night. Addleton requested the council submit any final revisions as soon as possible. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 27 at 6 p.m. The budget ordinance will be introduced on June 9 and a final vote will occur on June 19.