Columbus, Lowndes begin work on budgets

July 27, 2013 10:46:32 PM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


August is right around the corner, which means it's budget time for city and county officials. 


Columbus councilmen are getting a head start on the 2013-14 fiscal year budget with a special meeting 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall. City Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said that's slightly earlier than the first workshop of each year to make sure the budget is set well ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline. 


"We're starting a little early this year to make sure we have the budget finalized at the end of the month," he said. 


Last year, the council approved an operating budget of $22,932,418 in revenues and $23,258,533 in expenditures, The $326,115 deficit was covered by the city's $2.2 million cash balance, avoiding a millage increase.  


A working copy of the proposed budget has not been distributed to councilmen or the public, Armstrong said, nor is it known if a millage increase or service rate increases will be on the table for discussion, but copies of the first draft will be made available Thursday and city leaders will make adjustments from there while considering budget requests from department heads. The city millage rate is currently 40.13 with the value of a mill at $172,000. 


The county's process is slightly different, Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said, as there are no workshops, but he meets individually with department heads and supervisors throughout the process. 


"In late August and early September, I'll be meeting with the supervisors ... and going over what some of my ideas are, what the revenue projections are, what I think we can do from an expenditure standpoint and get a feel with where they are on everything," he said. "I think we've only got two or three departments that have not submitted their budget requests. They've pretty much assured me I'd get those by early this week. At that point in time, we get the computer printouts (chief financial officer Dave Basinger) and I set a couple of computers up in the conference room and we camp out there for a month." 


Where county budget projections stand in comparison to last year will likely not become clearer until September, but Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders said during a recent meeting that the value of a county mill may increase as much as $40,000 according to discussions he's had with Basinger. The mills for the county are 40.01 currently, with the value of a mill at about $446,000.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.