Hoschton officials are hoping 2014 will be the year the city begins to get a handle on its financially troubled Water & Sewer system.
Having used up virtually all of its reserves this year to keep the struggling system afloat, in November Hoschton got approval by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) for three years of “payment amnesty.” That means the city will only pay $13,000 of bond debt interest in 2014 and won’t have to make any payments on its two GEFA loans. This year, those payments totaled $464,900.
That savings, along with transferring $200,000 from the town’s General Fund into the W&S Fund will hopefully help the town rebuild reserves in the W&S Fund such that it can begin to repay the GEFA loans once the three year amnesty ends.
The Hoschton City Council went over its first read of the town’s proposed 2014 budgets Monday night.
The council took no action on the budgets and will meet again on Monday, Dec. 30, at 6 p.m. for a public hearing and the final budget reads.
RAISES DESPITE TROUBLES
Despite the financial problems in the town’s W&S Fund, the proposed budget includes a 10 percent raise for utilities clerk Karen Butler to $34,480 per year. It also includes a new employee hired in 2013 for $63,174 per year. Overall, salary costs in the proposed 2014 W&S fund budget are going from $34,700 this year to $97,600 in 2014.
Hoschton also plans to increase spending in W&S capital projects to seek an alternative water source.
“In a proactive stance, we need to investigate,” said city clerk Ali Merk. “We need to procure and secure alternative water sources.”
Overall iln 2014, the city projects having operating revenues in the W&S Fund of $783,500 and operating expenses of $676,200. In addition, the town plans to use $120,000 in SPLOST funds and the $200,000 transferred from the General Fund to help offset $80,000 in capital expenses and $13,000 in interest payments.
If all goes as planned, the city hopes to net $335,300 next year to begin rebuilding reserves.
The proposed 2014 General Fund budget includes a three percent increase for Merk’s salary. Her salary will increase from $43,512 to $45,320 in 2014 under the proposed budget.
The city projects having General Fund revenues of $471,600 in 2014, most of which will come from sales and other taxes. The town doesn’t levy a property tax.
In expenses, the city proposes to spend $128,100 in general administrative costs; $4,120 in city council expenses; $2,000 for the city court; $75,300 in public works; $18,100 in culture and recreation expenses; and $21,700 in planning and development.
Those expenses, along with the $200,000 tagged for the W&S Fund totals $464,300 in total expenses for next year.