The Athens City Council is expected to vote on the proposed budget and tax rate for the 2019 fiscal year Monday night.
The tax rate will stay the same as last year. That part was easy for the council.
City officials have been clear that the budgeting side of the equation hasn’t been as easy this cycle.
“We have a unique budget,” Mayor Monte Montgomery said recently. “It is really tight. We’ve had to really tighten our belts.”
The belt-tightening has included difficult and unpopular choices like reducing the cost-of-living increase for retirees, cutting the money set aside for concerts at The Texan, and rethinking the Cain Center rehab project.
Why is this budget so tight?
To begin with, prices for things go up every year. This year, for instance, the City’s group health insurance went up about $150,000. That’s a 10 percent increase on top of an 8 percent increase last year, according to City officials.
There are also important pieces of fire and street equipment that need replacing that will cost about $100,000.
Those are the type of issues cities deal with annually, but there are two unusual items that have also impacted this year’s City of Athens budget.
First, the council set aside $186,000 for running the Cain Center on the chance it opens before the end of the next fiscal year. Second, the council is expecting to bring in about $320,000 less in revenue than last year.
The drop in projected revenue also helps explain comments during the recent City Council meeting reporting the past couple of budgets were not balanced even though council members believed they were balanced when they were approved.
Revenue — the City’s income — was overestimated in those budgets, officials said. This year the City tried to return to more realistic projections.
“We have tried to be conservative in our revenue projections,” said City Manager Elizabeth Borstad.
All those adjustments from last year mean the City Council had about $750,000 less to spend while budgeting this year. That’s an almost 7 percent change.
An unusual budget, indeed.
Follow Michael V. Hannigan on Twitter at @mvhannigan.