Georgetown lays off tax hikes

No property tax increases are planned for Georgetown's residents in the 2010-2011 budget, according to a draft budget presented to the Georgetown City Council Thursday.

Instead, residents likely will see an 11 mill decrease on their tax bill because the city will not collect a debt service millage, said City Administrator Chris Eldridge.

The city's wish list of expenses totals $32.3 million next year, but it is only expecting to collect $30.9 million in revenue.

With a $1.4 million gap between desire and reality, the city expects to balance the budget at least partly by looking anew at about $5 million in capital improvement requests.

Council members scrutinized the projects and expressed concerns about the high cost of equipment repair.

Councilman Paige Sawyer questioned spending on equipment maintenance.

"As you go through books and see some of these maintenance costs, you can see why some of these departments are in the red," Sawyer said.

Sawyer pointed out that several vehicles, including a Holland tractor, had low mileage but had gone through several tires. "Why with such low mileage, so many tires had been replaced?" Sawyer asked.

Eldridge said that the tractor tires had been most likely shredded because the tractor was too big for the city's current streets.

The tractor also has had to have its transmission replaced five times.

Councilman Rudolph Bradley also questioned the maintenance costs.

"It's obvious if operation and usage improve, it will cut down on wear and tear," Bradley said. "When I have someone tell me the transmission on a new tractor has to [be continually replaced] that has to be poor operation and carelessness."

Bradley asked that employees get enough training on how to properly operate equipment.

The City Council also looked over a proposal to spend more than $90,000 on upgrading the city's 10-year-old telephone system.

"Our phone system is really old," said Finance Director Jessica Miller.

Miller said when phones break down, the city has to purchase replacement phones on eBay because they can't find current models that are comparable with the city's existing system.

City Council members agreed on the need to replace the system.

"Instead of spending money to make us operable let's invest in a system that is going to take us through the next 10 years," said Councilman Brendon Barber.

Eldridge said he will have to research the cost of a new system.

Other capital projects requests included about $2.1 million for drainage and a new tractor; about $730,000 for two new backhoes for the electric department, fiber optic recertification and building improvements; and about $2.4 million for the fire department for replacing 50 breathing apparatus, a new fire station, a new fire pumper, a training officer vehicle and a video conferencing system.

The next budget workshop will be at 3:30 p.m. May 6 at City Hall.