The Winder City Council voted last Thursday to approve the city’s $41.68 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019, a 5.2-percent increase — a little more than $2 million — over the FY2018 budget.

The city rolled back its millage rate from 8.6951 mills to 3 mills to cover the fire tax. The rollback was due to the $2.13 million local-option sales tax proceeds the city collected from January through December 2017.

The new budget includes a general fund increase from $15.03 million to $16.09 million. That increase is due to several vacant positions in the police department being fully funded for FY19, the transfer from the television station employee to the technology services department and an increase in professional services fees due to reviews over the level of taxation of city property owners by Barrow County and litigation against the county over the city’s application to have a separate EMS service.

Also, the city’s solid waste fund is projected to increase from $763,000 to $805,000 due to growth in new homes and businesses; the hotel/motel fund is set to increase from $31,500 to $56,000 due to hotel/motel tax revenues from the Holiday Inn Express that opened during FY18; and the gas fund is set to drop slightly from $7.72 million to $7.39 million due to a decrease in billed volumes.

The council’s vote to approve the budget was 4-1 with councilman Jimmy Terrell opposed and councilman Chris Akins absent.

Terrell has objected to the council’s decision to levy a property assessment to fund the city’s contribution to the Winder Public Library.

Each property in the city will be taxed $32 to fund the library up to $200,000, which would be an increase over the $150,000 the city has contributed through the general fund in recent years.

Terrell and some library advocates have argued the library should be funded higher through the general fund.

Any revenue in excess of $200,000 will be paid back to the enterprise funds to cover the transfers that were made in previous years to the general fund to fund the library, according to the city’s budget document.

Terrell also has said the city should fund the Winder Downtown Development Authority at a much higher level. That amount for FY19 will be $4,000.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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