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City: No tax hike, garbage fees may rise

Pay plan in final phase plus 2% raise foreseen for city workers

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City: No tax hike, garbage fees may rise


Statesboro residents and businesses will probably pay higher sanitation fees, but not higher city taxes or water and sewer rates, under the 2017-18 city budget.

Meanwhile, city employees should see the completion of the phased-in raises begun under the compensation plan adopted after last year’s pay study. City Manager Randy Wetmore is also suggesting a further 2 percent raise for city employees.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is still being fleshed out. But City Council heard from heads of the city government’s departments and funded agencies, and from Wetmore and Finance Director Cindy West, in a budget work session that lasted much of the business day Friday.

Wetmore’s list of budget assumptions carried the meat of the matter.

“The first one I would point out to you is that the millage rate will not be increased again this year,” Wetmore told the council. “There will also be no increase in tippage fees, water and sewer rates or natural gas.”

The millage rate, governing they city’s property taxes, would remain at 6.358 mills, or roughly $254 on a $100,000 home assessed for taxes at 40 percent market value.  Tippage fees are fees charged for dumping at a landfill.

 

Sanitation increases

But Wetmore and Director of Public Works and Engineering Jason Boyles proposed increases, around 4 percent for most levels of service, in garbage collection fees. The last increase in any of the solid waste collection fees was in July 2012, five years ago.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to keep that down, but over time, the cost of materials, the cost of doing service has gone up, and so we’re trying to keep up with where we should be financially,” Boyles said.

He proposed a set of increases, varying among the different kinds of service. The proposed increase for residential solid waste collection, including garbage polycart and yard waste service, is 65 cents, from the current $17.35 a month to $18. That’s about 3.75 percent.

For standard commercial polycart and yard waste service, the increase would be 80 cents, from a current rate of $19.45 a month to $20.25, or 4.1 percent.

A 4.2 percent increase is proposed for emptying dumpsters, for which there is a wide range of container sizes and frequency of service.

 

Higher on roll-offs

For collecting debris from the large roll-off containers often used for demolition projects, a 12.5 percent increase is proposed. The charge would rise from $80 per collection to $90. An 18.4 percent tippage rate increase, from $38 to $45 a ton, is also proposed for these.

The city started handling roll-offs only a few years ago and “started really low” with its fees, Boyles said. After the increase, Statesboro’s rates will “remain competitive” with those of the county and comparable-size Georgia cities, he said.

Wetmore’s comment about there being no increase in tippage fees applied to regular residential and commercial container collection only. Boyles called the tippage fee for roll-off containers “a pass-through,” with the increase reflecting actual costs associated with the landfill transfer station.

Of the city’s regular tippage fee of $38 a ton, $37.02 cents is needed to pay the hauling, disposal and fuel charge under the city’s contract with Broadhurst Environmental and Rackleff Enterprises, Wetmore noted in his written budget assumptions. Only with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue can the city also cover the cost of space in the out-of-county landfill, plus remaining post-closure expenses on the old landfill here, stated a note similar to one in past years’ budgets.

 

SPLOST still off

For three years now, SPLOST revenues, reflecting local retail sales, have fallen about 10 percent short of the long-term projections used in the original budgeting for SPLOST projects. Because of this, solid waste collection fees were used to purchase a new garbage truck city officials first hope to fund entirely from SPLOST, Boyles said.

The city’s budget consists of several funds, together totaling more than $57.5 million in revenue, or $47.5 million when payments city departments make to one another are subtracted.

In the general fund, which receives taxes, license and permit fees and fines, West projects revenue of $14.64 million for the new fiscal year. Funding Wetmore’s initial budget recommendation will require spending a projected $157,346 out of the general fund’s existing balance, beyond projected new revenues.

 

Pay raises

The third and final phase of pay increases from the recommendations in the job reclassification and compensation study that the consulting firm Evergreen Solutions LLC completed one year ago is part of the initial budget. This is meant to bring Statesboro city employees’ pay to the 55th percentile in comparison to similar-size cities and other government agencies studied.

Beyond that, Wetmore has included a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for all of the city’s approximately 300 employees in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The raise will cost about $250,000, he said.

The final budget may not be adopted until June, Wetmore said.

 

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

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