by: Ken Denney, VR Public Information Officer
Villa Rica’s City Council on Tuesday adopted a $45.7 million budget for the 2024 fiscal year.
The budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, reflects what city leaders say is required to maintain city services while also coping with national inflation and continuing to upgrade infrastructure.
The general fund, about a third of which is made up of property taxes, is 3% higher than the 2023 budget. The general fund pays salaries and equipment for Villa Rica’s Police Department among other expenses.
The budget that the council adopted Sept. 12 includes over $6.4 million in projects that had been requested by city administrators – but $2.1 million in additional proposed projects had been cut during the summerlong budget-making process.
The budget is dependent on a property tax millage rate of 5.822, which represents a full rollback from the previous rate of 6.25 and is the second lowest millage in over 30 years.
Budgeted revenues for the city are forecast to decrease 6% compared to 2023, but this is primarily because remaining revenues from the 2015 Carroll County and 2016 Douglas County Special Local Option Sales Tax allocations had previously been earmarked for capital projects.
The 2024 budget includes a 3% cost of living adjustment for employees, and $213,367 for maintenance of city buildings. The budget also has several water and sewer capital projects to improve city infrastructure.
Building permit revenue is expected to decrease by $416,400 based on an anticipated lag in the completion of commercial and residential projects. That lag will also affect water and sewer tap fee revenue, which is forecast to decrease $556,060 in 2024.
While the budget includes a modest 5% increase for volume of water used – equating to an 85-cent monthly increase for the average customer – there will be no increase in current sewer rates. The water bill hike is in anticipation of an increase in the cost of water purchased from Carroll County once the city’s current contract with the county Water Authority expires in 2025.
On the expense side of the ledger is additional funding for Parks and Recreation projects. The department is currently undergoing a master planning phase to determine how its resources may be better used. Among the parks projects funded in the 2024 budget are replacement scoreboards for Gold Dust and the V-Plex, and $445,000 in various other park improvements.
Critical infrastructure projects also received the green light, including a $650,000 force main redirect project involving the Cleghorn Street lift station, and $350,000 to replace water lines along Church Street. Punkintown Road has $2.4 million remaining from last year’s $4 million Carroll County SPLOST allocation, while $3 million has been reserved in the budget for other street and sidewalk work.
The Police Department got the go-ahead to hire a Crime Suppression Officer and to add a detective to its force. Other departments also were beefed up with new full-time or part-time staff.
The city also has debt obligations, especially in the payment of the bond that financed the construction of its westside water treatment plant. But the $2.4 million payment this year is only $1,876 higher than last year because the city refinanced the bond last May.