The Cartersville City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to adopt its fiscal year 2020 budget — and with it, increases to the municipal millage rate as well as residential gas, water and sewer rates.
“The proposed budget is balanced,” said City of Cartersville Finance Director Tom Rhinehart at the public meeting. “It includes salary adjustments throughout all our departments … it includes an increase in health insurance for City employees.”
He said the key numbers are identical to those presented in the first reading of the budget, albeit it with one change — a $2,000 reduction in the City’s outside agency funding, which ultimately brings the FY 2020 general fund budget to $26,653,300.
Under the FY 2020 budget, the City’s millage rate is set to increase from 3.228 mills to 4.228 mills. The impact on the median Cartersville home valued at $170,000, Rhinehart said, would be an additional $68 in City property taxes each year.
The total FY 2020 budget comes out to about $165 million. It includes about $47.1 million in electric enterprise funds, about $45.3 million in water and sewer enterprise funds and about $28.8 million in gas enterprise funds. The three highest-budgeted general fund expenditures are fire ($7.5 million), police ($6.1 million) and parks and recreation ($3.7 million.)
As part of the budget, council also unanimously approved an ordinance amendment increasing the fixed monthly base rates for City gas customers. Beginning July 1, residential customer rates will increase from $10 to $15 a month, while the rate for commercial customers will increase from $15 to $20.
Also receiving unanimous council approval was another ordinance amendment, which increases the base tier rate for residential water customers from $9.45 a month to $9.92 — a measure Rhinehart said will result in the average residential customer paying $2.73 more per month for City services.
That ordinance amendment also decreases the sewer rate for customers who live outside the City limits, reducing their monthly charge from $4.15 to $3.98. The ordinance also increases the monthly fire service charges for all pipe sizes by 5% and implements the City’s first increase in high strength waste surcharges in more than two decades.
All of those rate changes are also set to take effect July 1.
A final budget item, a slate of contracts for performing services, was also unanimously approved. Among other contracts, the Bartow County Library System is set to receive $454,000 while the Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority is set to receive $200,000.
The council also approved a contract agreement for a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) art project, which would be placed under the Church Street Bridge at Gilmer Street.
Per City documents, the project is expected to take one and a half weeks to complete and will cost $6,000, “funded through public/private sponsorships, donations and grants.”
“Rather than affixing it to the bridge, we have devised a system with public works whereby we will place the murals onto freestanding posts,” said DDA Director Lillie Read. “They’d like to start working in July … the goal is to actually do it during summer, so that they can get some of the local children involved with doing a portion of the piece, just painting it, some of it, under supervision of the other artists.”
The council also approved a contract with Sunnyvale, California-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. Per City of Cartersville documents, the company helped the municipality address “internal issues” associated with the May ransomware attack.
The contract, which is not a budgeted item, is listed as "an amount to not exceed $40,000."
City of Cartersville Assistant City Manager Dan Porta told The Daily Tribune News that the local government could not publicize any additional details of that cybersecurity attack — such as the financial amount demanded by the hackers and whether or not the City paid said ransom — at this time.
He did, however, note that the City purchased additional cybersecurity coverage as part of its annual property and casualty insurance renewal — tabbed this year at $664,253.
“The recommendation is going to go with $1 million in network and information security liabilities,” Porta said, “the highest amount they offer.”
Other items of note from Thursday’s meeting include:
— The council unanimously approved a request from the fiber department to purchase malware protection software from Falcon Complete in the amount of $56,402.50, to be installed on 350 personal computers and servers. “This is not a budgeted item,” a department summary reads, “however, it is needed to improve the security of servers and computers.”
— The council unanimously approved a request for proposals from Dempsey Auction Co. regarding the City’s old Fire Station No. 3 building along West Avenue and its adjoining Woff, LLC tract, with the condition that City Manager Tamara Brock is allowed to “negotiate the final terms with Dempsey Auction Co. and Woff, LLC.”
— The council unanimously approved a request from the water department to award Newberry, Florida-based Precon Corp. $799,000 to construct a new wash water tank at the water treatment plant. “That is a budgeted item funded by the revenue bond that was issued last year,” said City of Cartersville Water Department Director Bob Jones.