Metter City Council approved a continuing budget resolution on Monday evening to continue operating under the FY2019 budget for an additional calendar month while they work to approve a balanced FY2020 budget. At the same time, City Manager Mandi Cody has issued a hiring freeze on the four vacant positions in the city: a police officer, a fire fighter, a groundskeeper and a water/sewer helper.
According to Cody, the individual departmental revenues are coming in within budgeted numbers. However, she said, the city has received $225,000 less in revenue for the year to date than has been expended. Since the city is so close to the end of the fiscal year, Cody said she believes the city will have to cash in CD’s totaling over $180,000 and use about $76,000 from the fund balance.
Originally, the FY2020 budget was scheduled to be released to the public on Monday, with a hearing scheduled for a week later. However, Cody notified council late Friday evening that the budget schedule was being delayed.
Council will resume budget talks during a workshop session this Friday at 9 a.m.
“My expectation at this time is that council members are going to discuss the financial condition of the city and what their options are and what the policy implications of those options are,” Cody said. “I think they want to come together in a format where they can discuss as a group those options, those consequences, those policies and settle in their own minds what they want their vote to be.”
The Proposed FY2020 budget that was being considered reflected a $464,000 budget deficit if the current millage rate and all rate structures were to remain unchanged.
“The $464,000 shortfall is not a brand new situation,” Cody said. “The last couple of years, for several years before I got here and continuing into my tenure here, council has used some fund balance to balance that annual operating budget.”
Explaining that the tax digest has decreased by over $5 million over the last decade, while council was continuing to vote in millage rates using the rollback rates with no tax increase, “The same millage was being applied to a lower tax base, which meant our revenues were staying, at best, steady if not declining at the same time expenses were going up on the city just like they were going up on homes and businesses.
“Some decisions made previously were to use the fund balance as a revenue to balance that annual operating budget. That’s been a policy decision of previous administrations and for this administration. When I showed council the deficit number, that was my effort to show them a transparent, true reflection of what I view the needs of the city are to provide the level of service our citizens want without contemplating a rate increase for anything. Then (council) can decide as policy decisions what they think is the best interest of the community.
“They are policy decision-makers and that is their role and I am trying to respect that role. This is something we have been struggling with for years at the city and each member of council has to decide what they think is in the best interest of the city.”