During Tuesday's City Council meeting, members of the public got their first opportunity to hear the proposed City of Statesboro budget for fiscal year 2023.
City Manager Charles Penny and his staff prepared the $87 million budget which includes:
- a 4% employee pay raise
- discretionary performance-based pay increases
- a $500 annual employee bonus
- six additional officers for Statesboro Police Department
- eight additional dispatchers for Statesboro Fire Department
Watch full meeting VIDEO here:
While the current budget draft is fully balanced, Penny pointed out that over $2 million was allocated from the City's reserve fund - a fact that comes with a set of challenges.
City administration maintains the reserve fund as a buffer for unpredictable expenses, like those associated with a natural disaster, as well as cash flow deficits. "The fund balance is really like a savings for our City," Penny said. "There is a period of time [after] the budget is adopted before we start collecting taxes. The fund balance provides a cash flow for us."
As an alternative to depleting the fund balance, Penny proposed an increase to the City's millage rate to generate around half of the missing revenue. "We can adopt this budget without an increase," said Penny. "However, I believe it would be irresponsible of me as a manager to say that you should not consider [it]."
"I urge you to be thoughtful of the impact that your tax increase would have on retail merchants in your city," Waters said to Council. "Retailers are already a big producer of tax revenue in Statesboro, as each of us pays a property tax on the buildings we occupy." Waters also pointed out that retailers are required to pay additional property taxes on items held in their inventory.
Mike Anderson, owner of Bulloch Fertilizer and Anderson's General Store, expressed similar concerns. "There are a lot of challenges, and we can't simply raise our prices to cover [them]," he said. Anderson suggested the City find ways to reduce spending - a concept all-too-familiar to local retailers. "We are all feeling the impact of inflation. [Retailers] are limited on how we can pass those expenses along."
Members of the community will have additional opportunities to provide input on the proposed budget before it ultimately goes to Council vote. According to Penny, the millage rate increase is a separate issue and will not be decided until around September.
Other business from City Council
Clark Beverages granted city's first liquor license
In accordance with the newest City ordinance, Clark Beverages II was granted a license for the package sale of distilled spirits - the first in Statesboro's history.
Owner Stephen Clark said he hasn't set an opening date, but development is underway at 607 Brannen Street. Clark was also the first applicant to receive a location reservation following the passage of liquor sales in March.
City, GSU partnership will provide 'resiliency training' for police officers
City Council unanimously voted to enter into a contract with the Georgia Southern University Research and Service Foundation to provide mental health and wellness services for Statesboro Police Department personnel.
According to Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead, the contract will essentially provide "resiliency training" for officers. Among other things, the services will offer assistance with overcoming obstacles in both their professional and personal lives, as well as techniques for dealing with stress and recognizing behavioral changes in colleagues. "It's like mental health first-aid," said Broadhead.