Millage rate, utility rates set to increase under proposal

Cartersville City Council hears first reading of FY 2020 budget

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The City of Cartersville’s proposed 2020 fiscal year budget calls for a millage rate increase — as well as an uptick in water, sewer and gas utility rates.

“It’s a proposed property tax increase of 1.0 mills,” City of Cartersville Finance Director Tom Rhinehart said at Thursday evening’s city council meeting. “The last time that was increased was in 2017.”

The City’s current millage rate is set at 3.228 mills. Under the proposed FY20 budget that would increase to 4.228 mills. 

The end result, Rhinehart said, would be a roughly $68 increase for the median household in Cartersville. Owners of homes valued at $170,000, for example, would see their property taxes go from $219.51 to $287.51 under the proposed rate increase.

“If you want to break that down on a daily basis, it’s 19 cents per day,” Rhinehart said.

Rhinehart gave an overview of the budget’s proposed utility rate increases.

“There’s a 5% increase in the base tier rate for inside-the-City-limit residents — this equates to an increase of $2.73 per month for the average residential customer based on 7,000 gallons consumed,” he said. “The current [monthly base] rate is $9.45 a month, and the new rate would be $9.92 a month.”

The FY20 budget, however, would include a 4% decrease for City of Cartersville sewer customers who reside outside the City limits. For those utility users, Rhinehart said the monthly rate would drop from $4.15 to $3.98.

Also included in the proposed budget is a 5% increase in monthly fire service charges for all pipe sizes and an increase in surcharges for high strength wastes. Rhinehart noted that the latter hasn’t increased since 1989.

The budget also calls for the base monthly rate charge for residential gas customers to increase from $10 to $15. Commercial gas customers should expect to see their monthly base rate charge increase from $15 to $20.

“These have not been adjusted since July 2015,” Rhinehart said.

The total proposed FY20 budget comes out to about $165.3 million. That’s nearly $3 million less than a tentative budget presented by Rhinehart at a city council work session meeting last month.

“The budget puts in the fiscal austerity, basically,” he said. “I think that I can speak for the whole entire City departments, we look for anything that we can save.”

The FY20 budget is roughly $17.8 million less than the City’s FY19 budget. That nearly 10% overall decrease is primarily explained due to the City’s removal of Cartersville City School Board appropriations as a line item — something that was recommended for deletion by auditors from Mauldin and Jenkins earlier this year.

Under the proposed budget, personnel expenses are set to increase by $1.7 million, while operating expenses are set to increase by almost $1.3 million. Meanwhile, commodities purchases are set to decrease by $1.8 million, while debt services are set to decrease by $1.9 million.

Capital expenses are set to increase by about $925,000 while transfers to the general fund will remain the same as in FY19.

Fire ($7.5 million), police ($6.1 million) and parks and recreation ($3.7 million) are the three highest-budgeted general fund expenses. The projected enterprise fund expenditures in the proposed budget includes $47.1 million for electric, $28.8 million for gas and $23.4 million for water pollution control plant repairs and construction. 

Earlier this year, the Cartersville City Council approved a roughly $37.5 million contract with Archer Western to upgrade the infrastructure at the James R. Stafford Water Pollution Control Plant off Walnut Grove Road. Rhinehart said the aforementioned utility rate increases are not being used to offset the expenses associated with that unfunded mandate from the State.

“This is not to recoup some of the costs of the ongoing construction process for the water pollution control plant,” he said. “These are actually costs that the City has to put into it in order to basically treat the water and have it come back to the State’s standards.”

The City’s gas fund is seeing a $7.1 million decrease while its water and sewer fund is set for a $5.2 million increase under the proposed budget. The budget also includes an estimated $3.5 million increase for the general and special revenue funds. 

“Most of that is for the grant funds — we haven’t had any grant fund-budgeted items in several years,” Rhinehart said. “Those equal about $2.4 million.”

The FY20 capital projects budget includes $30.8 million set aside for numerous water projects, about $20 million of which are also unfunded mandates. About $2.7 million in 2014 SPLOST funding is going toward Fire Station No. 3 and other various projects, while about $1.2 million in 2020 SPLOST funding is going toward a citywide advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) project and computer storage. The Transco distribution station and other gas projects are tabbed at about $4 million, with funding for the Transco distribution hub listed at $2.6 million.

The Cartersville City Council is set to hear a second reading of the proposed FY20 budget — with a council vote immediately following — at a public meeting scheduled for June 20 at 7 p.m. at 10 North Public Square.