City officials continue to whittle down a proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. City council members met with city administrators and several department heads Thursday for another all-day budget workshop.
Hinesville’s fiscal year is Nov. 1-Oct. 31. Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said the council’s objective is to approve a balanced budget and set a millage rate by the end of October.
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 Hinesville Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Ryon. Before initial cuts were made, the requested 2012 general fund budget was $20,218,769.
Edwards said the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission budget, Liberty Transit and MidCoast Regional Airport budgets were discussed Thursday morning. City officials went over the public works and water departments’ budgets that afternoon, he said.
"We’re asking our internal departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent," Ryon said. The city’s outside agencies, such as the LCPC and OMI, also are being asked to cut their budgets by 10 percent, per Hinesville City Council member Jason Floyd’s urging, according to Ryon.
"We began (the budget process) with a $900,000 shortfall," Ryon said. "We’re closing the gap; we’re down to $200,000 now," she said Thursday.
Officials discussed ways to cut public works operating expenses, along with examining fuel costs and equipment costs.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas asked if the city could explore using prison labor for landscaping tasks. Edwards said the city would have to buy or rent a van to transport inmates and would have to arrange for prison guards to supervise inmates. Officials agreed to consider the option next year.
Council members said seasonal public works employees who are utilized more during the summer could be "redirected" to take on tasks in the winter such as maintaining ditches. District 4 council member Keith Jenkins said residents want to see some outdoor areas serviced more often. Thomas said redirecting personnel resources could help keep costs down and would better serve the public.
Officials also discussed ways to cut landscaping costs. Thomas suggested city workers plant several species of perennial flowers so they would bloom at different times. He also suggested using mulch instead of pine straw. Group plantings also were recommended by staff as one cost-cutting option.