After making some tough decisions that resulted in the reduction of over $3.7 million of department requests, the City of Valdosta Fiscal Year 2017 Budget was approved by the Mayor and City Council at their June 9 City Council meeting. City Manager Larry Hanson presented the council with a balanced budget, as required by the City Charter.
City Council approved the $89 million budget, following over six hours of presentations at the June 1, 2 and 9 public hearings. While the document specifically outlines the financial uses throughout FY 2017, city leaders weigh every purchase with actual revenue flow and an assessment of real needs.
“Our entire workforce is commended for managing expenditures while maintaining services with a positive attitude over these past several years,” said City Manager Hanson, “We are fortunate that our city has no general obligation debt and the overall financial health of our city is good. This budget is once again based on sound revenue and expenditure policies to ensure the long-term financial stability of the city.”
The city faced several challenges in balancing the FY2017 Budget. While the cost of doing business and the demands for services have not decreased, some of the city’s largest sources of revenue have fallen considerably short of expectations. Both the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) collections have declined in recent years.
Even so, Valdosta—Georgia’s 14th largest city— continues to have one of the lowest millage rates among peer cities in the state. With a property tax rate of 6.106 mills, Valdosta’s millage rate remains lower than it was in 1992, when it was 6.25 mills. In fact, the city has lowered the millage rate 11 times in the past 20 years. While city officials cannot predict the final tax digest, a millage rate increase is expected by the adoption of this budget when the millage rate is set in August, following completion and approval of the Tax Digest.
The FY 2017 budget includes the funding for the Compensation Plan prepared by Condrey and Associates and recently approved by the Valdosta City Council. The plan identifies city positions whose salaries are below peer and market governments and outlines a new salary scale that impacts many employees. Implementation of the compensation plan will begin in September 2016.
The budget also includes the continuation of the Water and Wastewater Sufficiency Review adopted in 2012 and its proposed annual 5 percent increase, a small adjustment in Sanitation commercial rates, and an increase in the Stormwater Utility fee. Necessary public safety vehicle replacements, renovations to facilities, road improvements, resurfacing, sidewalks and other capital projects are also included in the budget.
“The City of Valdosta has managed its finances through the slowly recovering economy in a measured and responsible way, without major consequences to our service delivery,” said Mayor John Gayle. “We will remain vigilant, and we are optimistic about future growth and the economic health and vibrancy of the city.”
The FY 2017 Valdosta Budget provides the necessary resources to ensure the city is operated in a fiscally responsible manner. It ensures the city can provide the necessary services to meet the needs of the city and its citizens. This is something City Manager Hanson and Mayor Gayle credit to the guidance and direction provided by the elected officials of the city and the outstanding work of the city department heads, finance and budget staff and the entire city workforce.
The City of Valdosta FY 2017 budget is effective July 1, 2016. The approved budget document may be viewed by citizens from the city’s website at http://www.valdostacity.com/budgeting beginning June 10.