Finance director projects $1 million local option sales tax decrease in ’21 FY general fund budget
Facing projected revenue shortfalls, the City of Cartersville is proposing selling its old police station building at 178 West Main St.
For the last few years the facility has been used as the location for Cartersville’s municipal court. Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini said the local government looks to do something very similar to what the City did with the old fire station building on North Erwin Street
— issuing a request for proposals (RFPs) and seeing if any private investors have any interests in purchasing or leasing the property.
“Anything that we do would be tied to an RFP to make sure that something was going there that we would have approval of,” he said at a work session prior to last week's Zoom-assisted city council meeting. “If something happens and we don’t get an RFP back that we like, then we can always make arrangements on the back half of that.”
Proceeds from the sale of the property, Santini said, would be used to shore up the revenue portion of the City’s fiscal year 2021 budget.
“Had there not been the conditions over the last few months, my feeling is we probably would still be doing this, anyway, because we’ve been looking to get out of that property,” he said. “The conditions over the last few months have just kind of led us to maybe put it more of a front-burner issue than a back-burner.”
He said he believes the proposal is a better alternative than increasing the City’s millage rate.
“We are not going to have a tax increase, a property tax increase, and we are going to roll back,” he said. “I feel very strongly that that’s the course of action we need to take … if you want to raise it by a mill and not sell the building, I don’t think that’s a very wise decision. But it’s certainly one that is an option for council.”
Councilwoman Kari Hodge said she’s not opposed to selling the property, but added that she doesn’t want to see the local government “get into the habit” of selling City properties as a means of making up for revenue shortfalls.
“I know we can’t sell property every year to balance the budget,” said Cartersville City Manager Tamara Brock. “There’s some additional measures that we can do in event you all don’t want to sell it or in the event it doesn’t sell … we just kind of need an idea of what you want us to look at.”
City of Cartersville Finance Director Tom Rhinehart said the local government won’t know its full tax digest until at least midsummer.
“I won’t start getting the rollback information, probably, until mid-July,” he said. “And with the intent of having everything approved by council … Aug. 31 is the drop-dead deadline for the County to get everything to the State.”
Compared to the current fiscal year budget, he said the proposed FY ’21 budget has a $1 million general fund decrease in local option sales tax revenue.
“Also, the revenue numbers from the recreation, with all of the COVID stuff, that’s been drastically reduced,” he said. “You’re looking at about a $500,000 drop there.”
Councilman Cary Roth said the City is bound to make some “hard choices” in the coming months.
“I don’t want to see services cut and those things, but sometimes, whether it’s taking a break from certain activities, that we may have to see that happen,” he said.
Brock said the City is using utility reserves to balance the FY ’21 budget. If the City chooses to increase its utility rates, she said the local government would still have to increase fund transfers in the ’21 budget.
“We’ll need to up that amount, as well, because that’s going to go towards their department revenue, initially,” she said. “But if we’re going to use it to potentially offset the general fund, then those transfer numbers will have to change again, as well.”
She said the City’s initial general fund numbers came in just days before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the community.
“They are all based on really good department revenue numbers, really good general fund revenue numbers,” she said, “and then, literally three weeks later, it switched on us.”
“This is unprecedented times, we have to do our best to try to figure out what we’re going to be over the next 12 months, when we don’t know where we’re going to be over the next 12 days,” he said. “We’ve got to budget conservatively and the hope would be that revenues are going to be higher than we projected, that things are going to be back to normal, from a utility perspective, faster than we imagine.”
Beyond a few first readings, the Cartersville City Council largely stared down an agenda rife with requests for departmental expenditures at Thursday evening's meeting.
The following agenda items all received unanimous approval from council members:
— A $13,801 contract with Norcross-based Equipment Controls Co. to install a telemetry system at the Transco pipeline regulating station.
— A $7,128 contract with M&R Services to provide annual meter testing services for the City’s electric department.
— A $23,676.20 contract with Xylem to provide two replacement submersible pumps at the City’s water pollution control plant.
— A $59,766 contract with Crowdstrike for cloud-delivered software. Cartersville Assistant City Manager Dan Porta said the annual renewal is a budgeted item and will help the local government “protect our computers from viruses.”