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Council approves balanced budget

The Hinesville City Council approved a balanced budget for fiscal year 2015 during a special called meeting Wednesday afternoon in city hall.

The $35,629,981 budget was balanced after the city’s chief financial officer, Kim Ryon, received the property-tax digest reflecting an increase in total property-tax revenues.

Prior to the vote on the budget, however, council members had to also approve increases for city garbage fees and storm-water utility fees.

During budget workshops in September, City Manager Billy Edwards recommended raising collection rates 19 cents, from $12.46 to $12.65, and dry-trash rates 13 cents, from $5.92 to $6.05. He also recommended raising the storm-water utility-fees base rate from $5.86 to $6.42.

“The garbage fees are based on a single-family residence, and the storm-water utility fees are based on a medium-size household,” Edwards said. “It’s my recommendation that you approved these rates as shown.”

Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier wanted to know if Edwards and Ryon had “exhausted all other means” to increase revenue to help balance the budget. On hearing that they had, Frasier and council members Jason Floyd and David Anderson voted to approve the rate increases. Council members Keith Jenkins and Kenneth Shaw voted against both increases.

“The reason I voted the way I did was because of our senior citizens,” Shaw later explained. “They live on a fixed income.”

Even with the increased revenue from the fees and tax digest, the city’s total $277,480 difference between total revenue and total expenditures was short by $168,120. Ryon said the city also benefited from a $133,197 increase in revenue from insurance-premium taxes, which brought the deficit down to $34,923. Ryon said that’s the amount the city found it could save by asking the Hinesville Police Department to delay filling three vacancies until Jan. 1.

The budget was balanced and approved.

“Thank you, Ms. Ryon,” Mayor Jim Thomas said. “Thank you all for your hard work in getting the budget balanced.”

Although it was a special called meeting and not a typical council meeting, an additional item was placed on the agenda.

Dennis Wells, co-owner and manager of The Pour House Bar & Grill on 135 W. Hendry St., requested special approval for a Class II alcoholic-beverage license.

Edwards noted the request was being submitted to the council prior to the business receiving and passing inspection by the fire marshal and department of inspections. He said it was not normal for them to do this, but understood the urgency was so the business could get its state alcohol license and be ready to open when all inspections were completed and approved.

Both Thomas and Frasier admitted they had reservations about approving the request before inspections were done. They said they were afraid they were setting a precedent that might lead to other special requests.

Jenkins said the council’s approval would be based strictly on the business fulfilling the inspection requirements before it could use the license.

The motion was unanimously approved.

The next scheduled city-council meeting is at 3 p.m. Nov. 6.

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