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Council asks changes in budget proposals
Hinesville City Hall

Hinesville City Council Members discussed a proposed $36.8 million total budget for fiscal year 2018 during a 3-hour workshop last week. The council requested staff make several changes and provide them additional data before a vote on the final budget in October. The budget process began in April, with each department presenting a detailed, line-item budget.

“The purpose of this particular budget work session is to hear from the mayor and council,” Interim City Manager Ken Howard said.

The city held five budget workshops during September.  

The council asked staff to include a salary increase of $4,000 for the Community Development Department’s Summer Youth Enhancement Project in the proposed budget.

Members also suggested delaying a Jan. 15 start date for a part-time code enforcement officer until April 1. The city’s inspections department requested creating the position to assist with an increased workload.

Council members also requested a more detailed analysis regarding merit raises. The city did not offer merit raises to eligible employees in 2011, 2012 or 2015.

The city’s proposed FY 2018 budget of $36,846,911 is broken down into eight major funds. The general fund stands at $19,790,244. The special purpose local option sales tax fund is $752,332 and can only be used for capital projects. Other major funds include special revenue from the hotel/motel tax at $210,959; $410,803 from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program; the water and sewer fund at $10,072,281; the solid waste fund at $3,179,262; funds for Liberty Transit at $909,474; and the storm water utility fund at $1,521,556.

City officials have proposed a gross millage rate of 16.04 for 2017, with a 5.29 rollback for a net millage rate of 10.75. The city anticipates a gross tax digest of $627,052,391.

Howard and Finance Officer Kimberly Ryon provided the council additional information on several budget items per members’ requests. Among them were two proposals to decrease longevity bonuses, which are now included in the proposed general fund budget at a maximum of one week’s pay. If the bonuses were dropped entirely, the city could save $159,601. If bonuses were capped at $500, the city could save $66,251.

Council members also questioned department heads regarding their recommendations to create new positions.

Code Enforcement Department head Steve Welborn was asked to explain his department’s workload and the process of serving notices of violation, as his department has requested hiring a part-time permit technician and a part-time code enforcement officer. Howard told the council the city’s inspections and public relations departments would collaborate on a campaign to educate the public about code enforcement and code violations.

Fire Chief Lamar Cook was asked about the necessity of hiring a deputy fire marshal. Cook said that with increased commercial growth, fire safety inspections have gotten behind. The chief explained businesses should be inspected every six months.

“Now we’re not even completing some in a year,” he said.

At the conclusion of the workshop, members Vicky Nelson and Diana Reid questioned Police Chief George Stagmeier about HPD’s chain of command. They asked Stagmeier to explain the department’s divisions and supervisory hierarchy. Nelson and Reid said they had concerns regarding the fairness of promotions.

Reid also asked that the council consider holding a special meeting “off site” in the near future to “iron out” problems with a number of city departments.

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