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City projects balanced budget
Employee health costs still a concern
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Despite concerns regarding rising health care costs, and a shortfall in 2011, Statesboro city officials project a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Statesboro city council members along with Mayor Joe Brannen, Interim City Manager Frank Parker and department heads gathered Friday for the annual day-long budget planning retreat where initial projections and plans for the city's 2012 budget were presented.

According to Parker, the City of Statesboro, due to cost-cutting efforts by various departments, should remain "in the black" during the coming fiscal year.

"We have done a lot of cutting, in a lot of places," he said. "We are going to have a balanced budget next year."

The city manager's projection was made despite an expected shortfall in the 2011 budget due to costs associated with employee benefits and health care.

The shortage, said Parker, was a result of costs projections that were far too low.

Due in large part to health insurance claims, the Benefits Insurance Fund's total operating expenses are projected to be nearly $900,000 more than was budgeted for in the current fiscal year. The city estimated expenses would total slightly more than $3,000,000 in 2011 - more than $500,000 fewer than 2010's total expenses ($3,729,992) and far from 2011's now-projected total: $4,063,056.

During discussion Friday, city personnel could not recall the reasoning for 2011's projected amount - Neither Parker nor Jeff Grant, Statesboro's director of Human Resources, were operating in their current roles when the budget was finalized.

A transfer from Statesboro's reserve funds provided a band-aid for the budget deficit, and city personnel are evaluating new, cheaper health care options, said Parker.

The projected benefits and health care costs for 2012 will be more accurate than those made one year ago, he said.

In an attempt to further cost-saving, it was also announced at the retreat that three full-time city positions will be eliminated in 2012. The city will no longer employ a chief financial officer, a parks superintendent or city planner.

Other items discussed in Friday's meeting include: a new, third fire station that would require $300,000 of 2007 SPLOST funds, a potential $2 rate increase for Statesboro Water/Sewer customers and new garbage trucks costing a combined $490,000.

All departmental budgets presented at the city's retreat are preliminary proposals. The city will likely schedule an additional work session to discuss the budget, said Michael Graves, Staff Attorney for the City of Statesboro.

Council will likely vote to finalize a budget for the 2012 fiscal year in late May or early June, he said.

Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.



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