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City budgets due by July 1

By Ed Brock

Some of Clayton County's municipalities are cutting it close on approving their budgets by July 1 but are mostly confident they'll make it in time.

"There's a possibility," Forest Park City Council member Don Judson said. "I'm not going to guarantee anything because I don't know what the other council members want."

Forest Park's 2003-2004 Operating Budget came up for a vote Monday night but was put off because some council members, including Judson, wanted some changes.

Judson said he is waiting for information from City Clerk Sarah Davis about getting a raise for city employees and perhaps lowering the city's millage rate to give a tax break to homeowners in light of a recent rise in the appraised values of houses in the city.

Forest Park's revenue and expenses for the next fiscal year are projected to be $14,963,688. The current millage rate of 5.043 mills is currently expected to stay the same.

If the budget is not approved by July 1 the city will go back under last year's budget on a day to day basis, Forest Park Mayor Chuck Hall said.

The expenses for this budget were lowered by 4 percent by eliminating 12 unfilled positions in the city, City Manager Bill Werner said.

The numbers in Riverdale's 2003-2004 budget change daily, City Manager Billy Beckett said. But that's good.

"We're trying to refine this budget so we take out anything superfluous," Beckett said.

Currently the budget is showing the city's revenue/expenses to be $12.4 million but that could change by Monday when the city holds its next public hearing on the budget. That hearing will start at 10 a.m., Beckett said, and another will be held at 7 p.m. June 30.

Beckett is still waiting on information related to the city's performance-based raises to be added to the budget.

"There is always the possibility of a millage increase, not for the raises but for economic reasons," Beckett said. "But we're trying to avoid that."

Morrow will hold its second hearing on that city's $7,565,644 budget on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., City Manager John Lampl said. The biggest source of revenue for the city remains the $1.5 million expected from its share of the Local Option Sales Tax, even though it will be around $700,000 less than what the city received previously.

Morrow does not have property tax, Lampl said, and the amount they receive from the LOST depends on how much the economy recovers in the next year.

"The good news is everyone is employed and there will be a small raise," Lampl said.

Jonesboro and Lake City's budget are based on the calendar year and thus the new budgets for those cities aren't due until Jan. 1, 2004. That doesn't mean they aren't thinking about the economy as well.

"We have been trying to control our spending," Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said. "There have been some dips in revenue but it's been holding steady recently."

Lake City is "playing it close to the vest," City Manager Jerry Garr said, and they have been holding off on filling two vacancies and buying some new equipment.