By DOUG NURSE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, April 06, 2009
Milton’s financial crystal ball looks pretty dark.
The city’s number crunchers anticipate it could be as much as $1.9 million short of what was budgeted for this fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. Milton’s current budget is $22.8 million.
City leaders are acting now to curb expenditures.
“We’re trying to be pro-active so that we don’t have any problems,” said Mayor Joe Lockwood. “It’s like your personal household. Everybody is trying to be conservative and watch their budget.”
City Manager Chris Lagerbloom stressed the $1.9 million is a doomsday scenario, but he believes it will be less than that.
In May, the city adjusts its budget to make sure it reflects reality. City officials are not looking forward to it.
“We’re clearly going to have to make some cuts, but there are some areas we can make cuts without affecting services,” said City Councilwoman Karen Thurman. “By law, we can’t have a deficit. We have to balance the books.”
The city has not spent as much money as budgeted in some areas, like public safety, and they’re looking at ways to cut costs, such as rearranging work space, closing some entrances to City Hall and mowing public spaces less frequently.
City officials are talking to CH2M Hill, the firm hired to provide virtually all municipal services, about cutting back on some of the services. The city pays CH2M Hill about $7.6 million a year as part of a lump-sum contract. Lockwood said he anticipates that the negotiations will yield positive results.
The financial staff project that sales tax collections, about a quarter of the budget, will be down at least 10 percent from last year. They believe business licenses and other fees will decline 10 percent.
Revenue from property taxes appears uncertain as people file for bankruptcy and some just don’t pay. Financial officials believe property tax collections will drop 10 percent.
“There are people far worse off than we are,” Lagerbloom said. “The fact we’re planning six months ahead of the end of the fiscal year, instead of waiting until the 11th month and realizing that we’re not going to reach the budget, that’s what government is supposed to do.”