A “freeze” on spending may be coming in Statham. The incoming new mayor and an incoming city council member favor some kind of spending halt until the budget is reviewed.
Mayor-elect Joe Piper, who will take office Jan. 2 said Monday, Dec. 16, he would favor a “freeze” on all spending. Any exceptions, he said, would have to be approved by him.
Piper and incoming council member Gary Venable said the city’s budget should be reviewed. Venable said at the council's work session Dec. 12 the revenue is behind and spending is above the budget limits.
The subject was not on the council’s agenda Tuesday, Dec. 17, and was not raised.
Piper said he believes a budget review can be done by new officials in 30 days.
Venable presented some budget numbers to the council Dec. 12. He said the city needs “to tackle” its financials.
He called the financial statement as of Dec. 6 “alarming” numbers. Venable had a printout of the budget from July 1 to Dec. 6.
Numbers that got attention included water billed of about $175,000, compared to $867,358 that was budgeted and the amount spent for water of $233,069, compared to the $70,000 budgeted.
City administrator Mai Chang told the council the amount spent is so high because the city is buying water from the county for $5.07 per thousand gallons and $3.50 per thousand gallons from Winder. The city paid Winder $1 per thousand gallons for the first 30,000 gallons of water.
The city has been buying water from the county for months because the city’s reservoir water has drawn complaints about the odor, taste and look of it.
Venable also pointed out:
•the amount billed for sewer service has been $42,009 and $359,053 was budgeted.
•water taps were budgeted for $33,000 and the city has received $10,250 halfway through the year.
•sewer taps were budgeted to bring in $247,500 and revenue has been $49,391.
•new construction permits are budgeted to bring in $40,000 and $12,268 has been generated.
Venable had a few dozen budget lines marked.
According to the revenue generated, the city is about $500,000 short after six months. Revenue has been $1.085 million and $3.2 million was budgeted.
According to expenses, the city has spent less than the budget – about $1.136 million compared to about $1.6 million as budgeted through six months.
Tammy Crawley, also a new council member, said the city has to get its audits “under control.”
“I don’t want to copy last year’s (budget) and put a new date on it,” Crawley said.
All of the new officials said the city needs to spend money on its infrastructure – water was mentioned prominently – and spending on other items needs to be cut.
Crawley and Venable said the city’s website needs to be updated and much more information put on it.
Venable said the city’s spending and revenue figures could go on the website so residents could see how money comes in and is spent.
Piper said he would study why the city is “333 percent over budget for our water purchases” and would review the sewer infrastructure and “find out why we are essentially under budget by approximately 65 percent.”
Venable said he does not believe there is “any kind of (financial) plan in place.”
He said he would like the city to eventually have a strategic plan that would replace infrastructure on a regular basis. He said the city’s water lines were put in so long ago that no one is certain where they all are.
“I don’t think we’re going to solve anything overnight,” Venable said. “We, at least, have to start.”