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May 21, 2014

Budget requests create lively city discussion

MILLEDGEVILLE — Tuesday’s Milledgeville City Council proposed 2014-15 fiscal year budget work session included debate on an increase in outside agency funding requests and the best future methods to deal with them.

The proposed budget doesn’t include any city department increases or any new funding or increases to outside agencies. Only mandated increases such as the cost for insuring personnel, implementing new programs and maintaining organization requirements are incorporated.

The Oconee River Greenway (ORG), Georgia’s Old Capital Museum and Keep Milledgeville-Baldwin Beautiful (KMBB) created the most discussion.

Councilwoman Jeanette Walden, District 2, isn’t sure about Greenway funding levels and suggested “cutting it back a little bit.” The proposed budget maintained last year’s $41,236 level though the ORG requested $49,000.

“When we first started, we were just supposed to give them seed money,” Walden said.

The District 2 Councilwoman said she thinks the ORG is part of recreation and therefore a piece of proposed Service Delivery Agreement negotiations between the city and Baldwin County.

“To me the Greenway is recreation. They say they are fixing to start a Phase 3, and somehow they are going to have to figure out how they are going to take care of Phase 1 and Phase 2 and not depend on us to cut the grass or do all the cleaning up,” she said Tuesday. “They need to figure that out, and in my opinion, not keep coming back to the city trying to go up [in funding].”

Steve Chambers, District 6, sees the Greenway as “much more than recreation.” He wants the funding level unchanged.

“I look at it as a opportunity to enjoy a part of our community that otherwise people very seldom got down there to,” Chambers said. “A lot of people take advantage of it.”

Walter Reynolds, District 4, sees the expansion as an additional tourist attraction.

“Many new events and fundraisers have popped up because of the increased access to the Oconee River Greenway,” Reynolds said.

City Manager Barry Jarrett did say the Greenway serves a “real purpose” in the community and encouraged continued funding.

He does worry about maintenance duties as the Greenway expands river frontage.

“The Greenway and the city and county are going to have to get together on this,” Jarrett said. “They are going to develop, and then it really comes back to the city or county or whoever decides to fund it to maintain that. Some forethought needs to go into all of this before it’s done.”

Boo Mullins, District 5, worries about agencies “asking for more and more money.”

The Councilman took issue with an additional $10,000 operating allotment for Georgia’s Old Capital Museum. This budget draft has museum funding up to $30,000.

“I don’t mind giving them some seed money, but as far as being obligated every year, I don’t want that,” Mullins said.

City Accounting Manager Brenda Josey said though not funded in this budget, three extra outside agencies asked for city money next fiscal year.

Denese Shinholster, District 3, said agencies always come asking for start-up money and “end up being attached to your side from that point on.”

“Whoever starts all of these things needs to think further than the fact that I need to come to the city and get some money,” Shinholster said. “Every group could come up with an idea and say I need $10,000. We give it, and then it’s next year y’all have to give me $30,000 because if you don’t I won’t make it.”

Jarrett told council to try setting a funding time limit.

Jarrett concurred with Walden that all these agency topics could relate to future service delivery agreement.

KMBB, a previously unfunded agency, was one of the three new requests that aren’t funded as the city budget stands. The city did fund the old chapter at $6,427 four years ago.

The community cleanup and litter education organization asked for $10,000.

Reynolds said, “these individuals are breaking a lot of sweat to clean up the community” and “no one wants to set up shop in a town that doesn’t take care of itself.”

The bulk of the money would go to the KMBB executive director.

“They really need the help to keep moving along,” Reynolds said.

Chambers said all these budget discussions should last for several months, not one meeting.

Shinholster said council would be better served breaking into budget committees and bringing the information back to the whole.

“So that everybody could become aware instead of it just hitting us one day at a meeting when y’all already have a resolution ready to pass, and we are just finding out about things,” the Councilwoman said. “Our committee meetings with everyone are so orchestrated and time oriented and you can’t discuss a wealth of information in an hour and 15 minutes. I feel like everything is just rushed or thrown at us. I’m frankly not pleased.”

Council isn’t set on the budget requests after Tuesday’s meeting.

A final proposed form hasn’t been in front of city officials for final adoption, as the late June deadline approaches.

 

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