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VR council adopts $42.6M budget for FY23

Villa Rica’s City Council on Tuesday adopted a $42.6 million budget for the 2023 fiscal year, a spending plan that is 16% less than the previous year.

The budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, reflects what city leaders say are the realities of post-COVID life; funding only a portion of the city staff’s requested projects while accounting for the inflation that affects all taxpayers.

Those taxpayers include many city staff, who will receive a cost-of-living adjustment to their salaries. The budget also allocates nearly $160,000 to maintain and repair city buildings, and it funds most of the water and sewer projects needed to improve infrastructure throughout the city.

All told, city staff requested $16.5 million in needs and projects during the summerlong budget-making process, but only $6.7 million was allocated, leaving many projects on the sidelines.

The new budget anticipates increases in revenues from sales tax and building permits as the city continues to grow, and higher receipts from the Pine Mountain Gold Museum. The 6.25 millage rate adopted earlier by the council will pay about a third of the city’s general fund (which includes police salaries), but the $6 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding that the city received last year will not be a part of this year’s budget.

To keep pace with the expenses of the water and sewer fund, the budget includes a slight increase in water rates based on a customer’s use. That rate amounts to an extra 81 cents for average users of 4,000 gallons per month. 

And even though a sewer rate increase is needed, the budget forgoes a price hike in that area in favor of water rate adjustments.

On the expense side of the ledger, the budget anticipates increases in the same sort of consumer costs faced by any resident. For example, it allocates $132,000 more for motor fuel costs than 2022, and $40,000 more for the city’s water and electric bills.

The budget also plans a contribution of $75,000 to Carroll Tomorrow, the organization that recruits new industry to Carroll County; last year’s budget had suspended that donation. The city will also invest about $80,000 in a new Crisis Response Team response team member for Carroll County Mental Health Advocates.

The city plans to spend $5.9 million on various capital (building or equipment) needs. Many of these will be funded by Special Local Option Sales Taxes from both Carroll and Douglas counties. But most infrastructure projects will be covered by remaining ARPA funds, low interest loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), and contributions from the general and water/sewer funds.

The city plans to spend $278,000 in new equipment in vehicles and $975,000 in various site improvement projects, including the beginning of plans for a new municipal complex that would unite all the city’s scattered departments under one roof.

Also included in the budget is a half-million-dollar matching grant by the city for a $1.7 million state Rural Development Grant that is expected to help bring improvements to the central business district.

But the biggest area of capital projects will be in upgrades to infrastructure. The budget sets aside $2.7 million for water projects, most of which would involve new utility designs for the as-yet unbuilt Mirror Lake Connector and North Loop. Sewer projects will claim another $1.8 million, including design and construction of the new Shoreline lift station.

Road improvements and resurfacing will be funded through a combination of state transportation Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants (LMIG), and money from the city’s share of remaining and current SPLOST funds.

More than $727,000 has been set aside from the Douglas County SPLOST for Conners Road Park, the first significant investment in recreational activities for the city’s newest passive park.

And the city remains responsible for payments on the bonds that funded its wastewater treatment plant and other debts. The FY23 budget allocates $2.4 million for debt service.

story provided by the City of Villa Rica

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