• 66°

Revenue, expenses grow with new budget

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Sunday came and went like most any other day for citizens here, but for city bean counters and leaders, it marked the beginning of a new year.

Fiscal years come with a flurry of paperwork and preparation behind the scenes and none of the outward fireworks that mark the passage of Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.

But despite the lack of a celebration, those living or working here still have reason to toast.

This fiscal year&8217;s budget &8212; which began Oct. 1 and will end Sept. 30, 2007 &8212; includes a revenue increase of 14.32 percent. Much of that increase comes from forecasts that predict an increase in service fees and a stronger tax base &8212; all because of new development.

Mayor Cecil Williamson said the new budget was based on a 3-percent, across-the-board increase in expenses and revenue, save for one department. Public Works employees were given more substantial pay increases based on a &8220;level commiserate with what they deserve.&8221;

Williamson said their pay scale was substantially lower than other departments.

The 3-percent growth model for sales tax, the mayor said, is in line with what the city has experienced in recent history. Last year, the city budgeted for $3.2 million in sales tax revenue. Through August, the mayor reported receipts of $3.4 million.

The mayor pointed to recent and upcoming grand openings for Fred&8217;s Dollar Store, Hibbett&8217;s Sports, City Trends and Peeble&8217;s Department Store as examples of what will drive the sales tax revenue increase.

Additional personnel added to city

Personnel shifts were made within City Hall by adding one person to the staff and dedicating each of the three employees to either Human Resources, Revenue or Accounts Payable.

The city&8217;s dedication to beautification projects continues in the new budget as well, with additional staff slated for the Horticulture and Public Works departments.

The mayor said the city also included two vacant police positions in its budget, but that no increases were planned. Filling the spots, she said, is a priority.

Additional personnel has been included for the fire department, however. The new budget includes positions for two new officers.

Water by a different name

For several years, the water department has been outsourced to Veolia, which for customers of the city meant very little.

So will the decision to bring the water department back under city control.

The mayor said water rates will not increase, but a savings would be minor if any.

Instead of economics, the decision was based on having control of the personnel and clarifying the command structure. Williamson said under the old system that water personnel answered both to Veolia and to the city board.