WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — With money on the minds of Warner Robins leaders, the city made room for pay increases to some city employees and to public safety departments. It’s all part of their proposed budget for 2023.
We break down the city's priorities, and share how much money folks might see if council gives final approval.
The City of Warner Robins has been working on this budget proposal for the past few weeks, and with some outside help, they were able to share their first draft at Monday night's council meeting.
Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick is proud of what the city has been able to accomplish in the budget process so far.
"We started out months behind schedule when I got into my seat, and now we are right on schedule with what our city needs to see as far as requirements for budget," Patrick said.
She says the city's main priorities include: Improving city employee recruitment and retention, allocating more money towards improving the city's technology, and covering department requests.
"Our budget is strong. Our revenue is strong. There are just areas we can make tweaks that'll help increase our revenues that come in from our utilities. For example, we own some utilities and we can maximize some things, and making sure we are not having multiple employees doing the same job, making sure we have a plan in place when we are sending out bids and bringing in contracts. So the money is there, it's just matter of keeping control with how the money is spent and it's spent according to the approved plan from mayor and council," Patrick said.
Warner Robins' Assistant Finance Director Holly Gross presented the proposal at Monday's meeting.
She said they plan on allocating $2.5 million, including a 10 percent raise for the majority of the city's employees; and for public safety, a $4,000 bonus to police officers and fire fighters and a $4,000 sign-on bonus to new recruits in those departments. Fire Chief Ross Moulton says the budget is "a good start."
"Anything that is addressing firefighter pay and salary is something that's certainly needed. We are grateful that the city is looking into that and certainly made some strides tonight," Moulton said.
Lauritsen also said they followed a "pretty good budget process."
"Each one of us held our meetings and we got input from the public, and the mayor and consultants have done an excellent job, along with our finance department," Lauritsen said.
Councilman Keith Lauritsen also explained why one of the biggest things they'd been discussing was how to pay their employees and hire new ones.
"We have so many jobs open right now because of the actual advertised salary, and so we are going to have to do something drastic in order to meet that need so that we can hire policemen, firemen, public works people. I mean, there are just jobs everywhere," Lauritsen said.
"So we have a very tight and efficient budget; and we've done it in an unimaginable time. We are really big on being efficient, operating on the highest level of efficiency, making sure we are not wasting taxpayers' dollars. I am really big on being a good steward of taxpayers' dollars and cutting waste and fraud as much as possible, so those are some big changes that are going to happen this first new fiscal year that I am going to be starting with the city," Patrick said.
Gross says there is no mileage rate in this proposal. Mayor Patrick also said she does not foresee increasing the city's taxes.
Mayor Patrick says the city will be hosting two more budget hearings before their July 1st deadline. Those are June 21st at 11 a.m. and June 30th at 5 p.m. at City Hall, and both are open to the public.
You can find more details on their budget proposal on their website.