The City of Valdosta Fiscal Year 2018 Budget was approved by the Mayor and City Council at their June 22 City Council meeting. The budget was presented to the council as a balanced budget, as required by the City Charter, importantly with no property tax increase.
Council approved the $97 million budget, following nearly six hours of presentations at the June 14, 15 and 22 public hearings. The document specifically outlines the revenue and expenditures for FY 2018, and city leaders have carefully weighed every decision based upon expected revenue flow and an assessment of need-based expenditures.
“Our entire workforce is commended for managing expenditures while maintaining services with a positive attitude over these past several years,” said City Manager Larry Hanson, “This budget is based on sound revenue and expenditure policies to ensure the long-term financial stability of the city. We are fortunate to be guided by an excellent governing body who spend hours in planning at their annual retreat and give a great deal of time to review the budget in preparation for six hours of public budget hearings.”
Valdosta, along with other governments across the state and nation, is still experiencing a significant lag in sales tax and other revenue sources that once provided steady and dependable means to funding citizen services, prior to the economic downturn in 2008. While the cost of doing business and the demands for services have not decreased, some of the city’s largest sources of revenue—such as the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST), Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST)—have fallen millions of dollars short of expectations and created challenges in balancing the city’s budget.
Nevertheless, Valdosta—Georgia’s 14th largest of 537 municipalities— continues to have one of the lowest millage rates and utilities rates among peer cities in the state.
The FY 2018 budget represents a substantial investment in needed equipment, vehicles, and facility improvements, much of which had been delayed in recent years due to economic conditions. Included in the budget is a $2.1 million increase in the General Fund, the city’s largest fund of which 65% is allocated to provide public safety services to citizens; a $2.1 million increase in the Enterprise Funds—which include Sanitation, Water and Sewer, Inspections, Mathis Auditorium, Stormwater Utility and Group Insurance and are funded by user fees not by taxes and operate much like a private business; and a $2.8 million increase in Capital Projects which improve quality of life in the city. Necessary public safety vehicle replacements; renovations to facilities; street and traffic management improvements; several sidewalk projects and two dozen road resurfacing projects that utilize matching GDOT funding are part of the capital projects planned for the coming year.
The budget also includes the full year implementation of the compensation plan implemented in October 2016 and a 1.25 percent cost of living increase for city employees; the continuation of the adopted Water and Wastewater fee schedule and its proposed annual five percent increase; and an adjustment to municipal court fines for the first time in 13 years.
“The City of Valdosta has managed its finances through the slowly recovering economy in a measured and responsible way, while maintaining—and even in some cases, increasing—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 2018 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—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 2018 budget is effective July 1, 2017 and may be viewed at http://www.valdostacity.com/budgeting.