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City's budget process is under way
Objective is to approve budget, set millage rate by end of Oct.
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The Hinesville City Council met with city staff last week and this week for several budget workshops to hammer out, line item by line item, a budget for fiscal year 2012. The council held a budget workshop this morning and also scheduled one for 10 a.m. Wednesday at city hall, Hinesville Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Ryon confirmed.

The recommended general fund budget for 2012 currently is $19,143,963, a decrease of $494,024 from the 2011 general fund budget of $19,637,987, according to Ryon. Before initial cuts were made, the requested 2012 budget was $20,218,769.

Ryon said the budgeting process actually begins in April, with each city department head recommending a budget for his or her department. During these initial meetings, department heads met with Ryon and Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards. Ryon said that after each department head adjusted his or her budget, she, Edwards and the council member who oversees the department made further changes in July.

“Those meetings typically lasted two to three hours,” Ryon said. “We do some detailed questioning.”

Then further cuts are made and the budget is presented to council, she said.

“The mayor and city council members have been diligent in their review of each expenditure and program,” Edwards said. “It would be hard for me to say that they have concentrated on one thing more than the others. Our objective is to get a balanced budget without an increase in the ad valorem millage rate and I am confident we will get there, although we still have some work to do.”

Edwards explained that the city has a number of separate funds to balance, including the general fund, water and sewer, sanitation and storm water utility.  

“To date, all but the general fund and the water/sewer fund are balanced,” he said in an email Wednesday.

Along with keeping expenditures down, part of the budgeting process is to predict revenue, Ryon explained.

The county tax commissioner recently submitted preliminary numbers to the city so it can project what to expect from this year’s digest, according to Ryon. Preliminary numbers show Hinesville may have had an increase of
4 percent growth within the city of Hinesville, Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones confirmed.

To help cover costs last year, the city dipped into its fund balance, or reserve, and used $1.5 million to balance its budget, Ryon confirmed.

“We’re not recommending using that much (this year),” she said. “It’s like paying your light bill out of your savings account.”

Ryon added that there are no capitol purchases planned at present, such as buying vehicles. The only exception is for four police cars that will be paid for with a grant, she said.

Edwards said the deadline for approving a balanced budget is “30 days after the first of the beginning of the new fiscal year.” Hinesville’s fiscal year is Nov. 1-Oct. 31, Ryon confirmed.

Edwards said the council’s objective is to approve a balanced budget and set a millage rate by the end of October.

“Suffice it to say that we are tightening our belts in every area that we can,” he said. “One must realize, though, that there are some areas we don’t have much control over — some of which are a result of federal and state mandates.”

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