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Morrow's 2012 budget includes tax increase

Morrow residents may have to pay a little more in property taxes during the next fiscal year, as the city looks to overcome a projected 20-percent decrease in revenues.

As part of it's proposed $14.5 million fiscal year 2012 budget, there is a 1.5 mill increase in the city's millage rate, or property tax, according to Morrow Finance Director Dan Defnall.

He added that, if the budget is approved the Morrow City Council later this month, the city's millage rate would go from 6 mills, to 7.5 mills, beginning July 1.

A millage rate increase in the city would generate approximately $340,000 in additional revenue for the city, according to Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady.

After a city council meeting on Tuesday, Defnall said the millage increase, along with $1.2 million in budget cuts, is necessary to balance the city's budget. "We're expecting a significant dip in the tax digest," he said.

The city council will conduct at public budget hearing, in which residents can offer their input, at the council's June 28 meeting, at 7:30 p.m., at Morrow City Hall, at 1500 Morrow Road. Eady said the council will vote on adopting the budget, as well as the millage increase, at that same meeting.

Defnall said city revenues would be $14.5 million next year, with the millage rate increase, putting it at the exact same amount the city is projecting for its expenditures.

"This is about a comprehensive, balanced budget, that takes into consideration all of our entities as one whole, [such as] the City of Morrow, the Downtown Development Authority, and bringing those together in a balanced budget concept that necessarily hasn't been done in the past," Defnall said.

On Tuesday, Eady said budget requests from city departments exceeded planned revenues $1.5 million, meaning city leaders had to make cuts, and raise taxes to balance the budget. He said it took the city a month-and-a-half to find a way to balance the budget, mostly through cuts.

"Some of it was in capital, some of it was in our daily operations, and it was the toughest job I've ever been through," he said. Eady said one cut, for example, will be reducing the city's personnel budget $500,000 in the next fiscal year. He and Defnall later explained that savings will come from not filling vacant positions, although Eady said there will be one group exempt from that hiring freeze.

"It depends on which position that is," Eady said. "If it's a public safety position, the police or a fireman, then we re-fill that position."

Defnall said the city is also cutting expenses, re-negotiating its employee health-care plan to save $100,000, and making cuts in capital projects.

Some of those capital-projects cuts include eliminating plans to demolish a vacant gas station at the corner of Ga. Hwy. 54 and Southlake Plaza Drive (to create more parking for the Morrow Tourism Center), and buying only two new police cars, instead of four.

In other action, the council voted 4-0 to allow Eady to sell city-owned properties and businesses located at 1837 Lake Harbin Road, and 5917 Reynolds Road. That allows the city manager to put those properties on the market.

The council also voted 4-0 to approve a $50 annual licensing fee for insurers who operate in the city, and to clean up inconsistencies in the language used in the city's laws governing taxicab companies.