Braselton council considering $2.7 million budget
Water, sewer revenue expected to drop 25 percent
BY KERRI TESTEMENT
A slumping economy isn’t affecting the coffers of Braselton like its neighboring communities, according to the town’s mayor.
On Thursday, the town council held a hearing on its proposed fiscal year 2009 general fund budget for $2.7 million a six percent increase from the 2008 budget of $2.6 million. Braselton doesn’t have a property tax.
The town has six departments accounted for in its general fund budget. Mayor Pat Graham said Thursday that Braselton’s planning and development department is unique because it doesn’t use general fund money to operate, but uses only regulatory fees, such as building fees.
“There are counties in our area Gwinnett County and Jackson County have had this issue where the department revenues are not adequately funding their planning and development departments,” Graham said. “We have not had that problem in Braselton.”
And while there has been a major slide in the number of residential permits issued in Braselton, the town has approved more commercial and industrial projects in the past year, Graham said.
Braselton is off its building permit peak by 80 percent, which is “extremely strong” in the poor economy, Graham said.
“I think Braselton did an excellent job in 2006, when we had our peak in terms of building activity not staffing the planning and development department,” Graham said. “We had employees that we were stretching to be able to address the needs of the community in the building inspection standpoint.”
Now that building permit activity is down 80 percent, the planning and development department is still able to meet its budget goals, she added.
The 2009 budget estimates Braselton will receive $550,000 in building fees the same as the current budget.
However, some other revenue sources tied to the department such as plan review fees will drop, the town anticipates.
Braselton’s impact fees for new developments are also expected to slide from $200,000 to $150,000 next fiscal year. An administration fee the town receives to collect Hall County impact fees is slated to decrease from $15,000 to $7,500, as well.
The town’s planning and development department is expected to spend $620,816 next fiscal year, compared to $534,329 in the current budget. That budget includes $100,000 earmarked for consultants to update the town’s comprehensive land use plan, which must be completed by 2010.
The town is also planning to use $100,000 in planning department reserve funds from previous years to supplement the general fund revenue.
Braselton isn’t hiring additional employees next fiscal year, according to town manager Jennifer Scott.
A vacant full-time position in the finance department will be replaced with a part-time employee and a part-time employee in the library will be given full-time status, she said.
The police department which is typically the largest department in Braselton has been limiting its expenses tied to overtime payments, Scott said.
Salaries in the police department are expected to decrease from $512,000 in the 2008 fiscal year budget to $488,000. Overall, the police department’s expenses will increase 15 percent from $916,376 to $1.08 million.
Medical insurance and worker’s compensation costs are also climbing for Braselton.
Scott said the town is holding safety meetings in all of the town’s departments to reduce worker’s compensation claims. Braselton plans to adopt a safety program modeled after one used in Winder, which could have saved the town $70,000 next fiscal year, she added.
Unlike the town’s general fund budget, Braselton’s water and sewer fund budget is expected to take a major hit from the slumping economy.
Braselton is projecting a 2009 fiscal year budget of $5.7 million for the water and sewer fund a 25 percent drop from this year’s budget of $7.7 million.
The town anticipates that revenue from tap fees will plunge from $5 million in 2008 to $3 million in 2009.
On the tap fees, Scott said Braselton allocated sewer capacity to several developments last fiscal year, which leaves less capacity available for next fiscal year. The town is also expecting a reduced demand for sewer capacity.
And in collecting monthly water charges, Braselton anticipates that water conservation efforts may reduce revenue.
“Of course, any time the state goes into a conservation program, it means that we’re going to have a reduction in revenues,” Scott said. “If we can’t sell the water, we can’t collect the money.”
Meanwhile, Braselton plans to pay a 47 percent increase in purchasing water from other providers. That item would rise from $900,000 to $1.7 million.
Scott said if Braselton starts using its new town wells by the end of the fiscal year, its water costs would be reduced.
Braselton’s water customer base has increased 63 percent in the past six years; the town’s water and sewer budget has risen 65 percent in seven years, Scott said.
Expenses in the water/sewer fund are budgeted at $5.2 million for 2009, compared to $4.7 million in 2008.
The town plans to have $1.4 million in reserve funds in the water/sewer fund, compared to $3.9 million in 2008.
The 2009 fiscal year begins on July 1, and ends on June 30, 2009.