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City adopts FY 2008 budget
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    The Statesboro City Council approved the city's budget for the upcoming fiscal year at their meeting Tuesday night following a discussion of the potential impact of funding from Bulloch County for the unincorporated fire tax district.
    City Manager George Wood addressed the issue of the three to five mile ring around the city limits protected by the Statesboro Fire Department. For more than 20 years, county residents in the fire district have paid 25 percent of the Statesboro Fire Department budget. However, that property accounts for 43 percent of the property covered by the department.
    The city has asked the county to increase the percentage of costs it pays to more accurately reflect the coverage it provides outside the city limits.
    Wood said it's not fair to provide fire protection to residents outside the city at a cheaper rate than those who live in Statesboro, especially because both receive the same benefits to insurance rates based on the level of protection offered.
    Those living in the fire district pay an additional tax each year to pay for the coverage and the city is asking the county to increase the amount paid by those residents to shoulder their share of the cost of the fire department.
    Wood and Fire Chief Dennis Merrifield met with county officials last week and presented their request. Wood said the meeting was "informational" and Bulloch County officials didn't indicate one way or another as to any action they would take.
    In the county's proposed budget, County Manager Tom Couch recognized the validity of the city's position, but proposed a three to four year phase-in of the increase.
    However, the city's budget includes the assumption the county will pay 43 percent of the fire department's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
    If the county decides not to approve the increase for this year, Wood said the city would either have to cut services elsewhere, generate the additional funds or stop providing fire protection for those living in the fire district.
    "No city can be expected to provide a service outside the corporate limits to non-residents at a price that is lower than it charges to its own citizens," he said.
    Also in the budget approved by the council was a two-percent increase in water and sewer rates and sanitation fees. Those rates have not been adjusted in seven years and were necessary to offset inflation over that time.
    The city will roll back their millage rate later this year to reflect the property reevaluations done by the county. However, the city can't do that until all the appeals have been heard. It's expected they'll roll back the rate in September or October.
    Also in this year's budget is an eight percent increase in fees charged at the Statesboro-Bulloch County landfill. This increase will only affect private disposal companies and is needed to keep up with the increased cost of fuel to haul the garbage from Bulloch County to Jesup where the city and county have purchased landfill space.
    A public hearing held last week to allow residents to express any concerns they had regarding the budget saw no one attend.
    Other action taken by the council included:
    - awarded a bid in the amount of $20,350 by Melton Painting Company, Inc. for exterior refurbishment of the Averitt Arts Center;
    - awarded a bid in the amount of $115,530 to Woods Contracting, Inc. for concrete construction for the Savannah Avenue extension and Rucker Lane projects;
    - approved the final plat for the In the Grove subdivision;
    - approved a motion to rebid the package for furnishings at the Statesboro Police Department;
    - authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute an agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation for the installation of left-turn lanes on Beasley Road and Cawana Road at the intersection of Highway 80.
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