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'A bad idea': Centerville councilman concerned with timing of 2024 budget

The community can give their input at the next city council on June 20 at 6 p.m.

CENTERVILLE, Georgia — A Centerville city councilman worries a big tax increase could be in the city's future if the current budget plan gets passed. 

Their proposed budget is about $15 million and Councilman Justin Wright says that's $1 million over what they bring in in revenue.

Wright says everything in the budget is important, and, "There are some things in here that we need, but I don't know that we're in a situation where we absolutely need them right now." 

As the proposal currently stands, about a quarter of the $15 million budget would be put towards public safety. Wright says they're looking to add new positions to the fire department and do some pay increases in the police department. 

He says they're also looking at putting a significant amount into the city park, which does well for the city. 

"I want this community to be a community that's safe, that people want to live in, and if I have to spend all the budget to do that, I think the citizens would appreciate that," Councilman J. Michael Evans said at the Tuesday night public hearing. 

Other councilmen shared the sentiment that as the city grows, they want to keep public safety as a priority. Wright doesn't disagree -- he thinks safety is important. He's concerned about the timing. 

"I think that there's a way that our city can continue to operate, can continue to maintain our current level of service, even grow a bit, without doing this substantial increase all at once," he says. 

He says to cover the $1 million difference, the city would likely need to get money by raising property taxes. 

"I would be shocked to find a way that we can do it without some significant increase," says Wright. 

He says with the rising inflation costs, added expenses would "kick people while they're down." Wright says there are some other options. 

"We can move money over from the water and sewer funds. I think this current budget has some money in it from just the general fund balance where we're cutting into our reserves -- I think that's a bad idea," says Wright. 

He also adds that the city has ARPA funds that they need to use this year. He says without these funds next fiscal year, the city will already be starting off half a million dollars shorter in revenue. 

"If we pass it as it stands currently, we're setting ourselves up for a two-, three-, four-year problem here," says Wright. 

As he's not a member of the budget team, he says he hasn't heard a lot of discussion about cutting items, and he didn't hear many at Tuesday night's meeting, so he asked Mayor Harley if they could meet the proposed budget of $15 million without putting it on taxpayers. 

The mayor responded that it would put the city in poor shape. Other members chimed in that the budget will be tight. 

At the end of the discussion, Harley said appropriate funds were available. Now, the city just needs to decide what paths to take. They will still hold one more public hearing before they make a final decision. 

You can share your thoughts at the next council meeting on June 20, at 6 p.m. at the city hall building.

Councilman Wright made it a point to add that his concerns are with the process of the budget and not directly with the different personalities of the council. 

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