The City’s 2021 proposed budget will be presented to the public on Monday, December 7th. According to City Manager Alan Carson, the purpose of this meeting is to receive public input on the City’s proposed budget while also continuing efforts to provide transparency to the community.
“For the ninth straight year, the budget includes no funding from property taxes and no proposed utility rate increases for City of Thomasville Utilities customers,” said City Manager Alan Carson. “The proposed 2021 budget is conservative due to many of the unknown financial elements that may result as our community continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In lieu of property taxes, revenue above the cost of providing services is transferred from the City’s utility funds to the general government fund. These utility transfers pay for governmental services that are traditionally funded in other communities by levying a property tax. “Thomasville is one of only three cities in the State of Georgia that does not depend upon property taxes to fund our operations,” said Carson. “For FY 2021, the amount of those transfers will be approximately $10,560,000, which is an increase of $50,000 from 2020.”
“On an annual basis, public safety is the largest component of our general fund expenses,” said Carson. “For 2021, it will make up 66% of our total general fund expenses. Some of this increase is due to a necessary capital outlay of approximately $1.4 million for Thomasville Fire Rescue (TFR) to purchase a new engine and ladder truck.” Carson said that TFR has two vehicles that are reaching the service life recommendation of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “Replacing these vehicles is required in order for TFR to maintain their Class 2 International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rating, which provides our community with lower home insurance premiums.”
The proposed 2021 budget also includes funding to assist the community in two distinct ways. “The City of Thomasville is including $250,000 of CARES Act funding (COVID-19 Relief) that will be allocated to providing assistance to citizens who were adversely impacted by the pandemic,” said Carson. “In addition, we are also committed to working with our community to establish a program that will provide long-range assistance with community housing and our underserved neighborhoods.”
Significant funding for public infrastructure improvements, including street paving and water and wastewater improvements, is also a key highlight of the 2021 proposed budget. “It is important that we continue to allocate funding to improve an infrastructure that in some cases is over 75 years old,” said Chris White, Executive Director of Utilities. “Our annual focus is to maintain our system and replace older infrastructure so that our systems are not compromised and remain capable of serving our community for many years to come.”
White said that the 2021 proposed budget will see a slight increase in capital improvement projects, which is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 caused a delay in many of our 2020 capital improvement projects. In the 2020 budget, $2 million was allocated to projects that were postponed due to the pandemic,” he said. “These projects will be rolled over to the 2021 budget to allow us to move forward with completing them.”
Recreational improvements will also be a focus in the 2021 proposed budget. “The City of Thomasville began an initiative several years ago to improve our public green spaces based on public input,” said White. “Earlier this month, the City Council approved a contract that will bring major improvements to Weston Park. The 2021 proposed budget will continue these initiatives and includes funding for a parks assessment through an independent party that will provide us with a much-needed neutral evaluation on the state of our other City parks.”
Carson said that COVID-19 has impacted the operational budgets of municipalities across the country, and Thomasville is no different. “The last year has been a challenging year for our organization and our staff, and I am proud of the work that has been accomplished,” he said. “The fact that we have been able to once again recommend no utility increases in our proposed budget is impressive. The City of Thomasville continues to operate efficiently in a manner that allows us to maintain a competitively-priced rate structure that ranks amongst the lowest in the state of Georgia.”
In addition to the public engagement budget review meeting on December 7th at 5:30 p.m., the proposed budget is on the agenda for the regularly scheduled City Council Workshop on December 9th at 4:00 p.m. and will be considered for adoption at its regular meeting on Monday, December 14th at 6:00 p.m. All of the meetings will be held in the Municipal Building located at 144 East Jackson Street. The proposed budget is available online at Thomasville.org or printed copies are available at the Administration Building drive-through located at 111 Victoria Place.
Meetings of the Thomasville City Council are open to the public. However, it is recommended that citizens are mindful of guidelines and recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control for public gatherings. For this reason, citizens are encouraged to utilize the City Council live stream available on the City’s website, Thomasville.org.