A public engagement meeting for the City’s 2022 proposed budget has been scheduled for Monday, December 6th at 5:30 p.m. 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 tenth straight year, the budget includes no funding from property taxes for residents of the city of Thomasville,” said City Manager Alan Carson. “The proposed 2022 budget addresses many concerns for our community, including infrastructure and public safety.”
In lieu of property taxes, revenue above the cost of providing services is transferred from the City’s utilities funds to the general government fund. These 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. “That means that in order to fund our operating budget, we rely heavily on transfers from utilities funds. Unfortunately, we are extremely dependent on our electric fund which is budgeted to transfer $9.3 million to the general fund in 2022.”
According to Ashley Cason, Chief Financial Officer, the 2022 proposed budget will include transfers from the utilities funds totaling approximately $11,560,000 which is an increase of over $1,000,000 from 2021. “On an annual basis, public safety is the largest component of our general fund expenses,” said Cason. “For 2022, it will make up 65% of our total general fund expenses, which is up slightly from 2021. This increase is in part due to new positions in the Thomasville Police Department that will be added next year to assist with traffic safety in our community.”
Cason said that the 2022 proposed budget includes a decrease of nearly $1.7 million to the capital budget, along with financing from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. “The proposed capital improvement budget will total $26,425,716, of which $3 million is financed by funds from the ARPA”, said Cason. “Uncertainty posed by COVID-19 caused a delay in many of our 2020 and 2021 capital improvement projects, some of these form a part of our 2022 proposed budget. The proposed decrease in capital improvement funding will not impact our ability to address the many capital improvements that are necessary to positively impact our community.”
The proposed 2022 budget also includes funding for many key initiatives. “Funding is included in our 2022 proposed budget for the Remington Avenue Streetscape, upgrades to our Wastewater Treatment Plant, and infrastructure improvements to the historic Dewey City neighborhood, for which we were recently awarded a Community Development Block Grant to assist with this project,” said Sheryl Sealy, Assistant City Manager. Sealy said that the proposed budget also includes funding to complete the parks and recreation assessment, which began earlier this year. “This important initiative will ultimately provide us with a much-needed neutral evaluation on the state of our City parks and greenspaces so that future improvement plans can be created for our community.”
Significant funding for public infrastructure improvements, including street resurfacing, drainage, and sidewalk paving, is also a key highlight of the 2022 proposed budget. “It is important that we continue to allocate funding to improve an infrastructure that in some cases is well over 75 years old,” said Chris White, Assistant City Manager. “Our annual focus is to maintain our system and replace older infrastructure so that our systems are not compromised and remain capable of reliably serving our community for many years to come.”
“Because Thomasville does not have a property tax, our municipal operations are funded by our enterprise funds,” said Carson. “This means that all essential governmental services, such as public works and public safety, for example, are funded primarily by our electric fund, as it is the only utility fund that is able to provide a transfer to support the cost of other governmental services.”
“Unfortunately, we have found it necessary to institute a small adjustment in our water and wastewater rates, which were last adjusted in 2019,” said Carson. “A recent cost of service study for our water and wastewater services found that these services were underfunded by approximately $1 million and $1.6 million respectively. This significant loss is the consequence of current rates that do not adequately cover the cost of providing these services and resulted in a negative balance for 2021 in both water and wastewater.” Carson added, “The 2022 proposed budget will include a three percent adjustment for water and wastewater as well as a small adjustment of $2.00 to the basic facilities charge for residential electric service.”
“This adjustment will have a very slight impact on the average customer,” said White. “In fact, most residential customers should only notice an increase of about $4.00 in their monthly utility charges. We are also entering into an agreement with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to provide a program designed to offer assistance with the cost of water services to eligible customers, so we are hopeful that we will be able to provide information for assistance to many of our qualifying customers.”
In addition to the public engagement budget review meeting on December 6th at 5:30 p.m., the proposed budget is on the agenda for the regularly scheduled City Council Workshop on December 8th at 4:00 p.m. and will be considered for adoption at its regular meeting on Monday, December 13th 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.