Commerce taxpayers can expect a slight increase in their city taxes this year.
The city council unanimously approved a $32.4 million tentative budget Monday night that will require a .44-mill tax increase. For the owner of property assessed at $100,000, that’s a $44 increase.
“This is an increase over last year, but we’re still under what it was two years ago and three years ago,” said Finance Director Steve McKown.
The budget includes funding for SPLOST projects — revenue already on hand, notes McKown.
“If you back that out, it’s at $29.9 million, compared to $29.1 million last year,” he said.
About half of that increase came in the General Fund, which provides revenue for most city departments and services. It’s projected at $5.8 million this year, up from $5.483 million last year.
McKown said fuel costs are up 10.6 percent, and natural gas purchases are going up about $800,000 for the same number of units as last year.
The budget provides one new employee, an additional school resource officer whose salary will be paid half by the city and half by the school system. Employees will get two-percent cost-of-living increases and can qualify for up to two steps in merit increases.
Approximately $22 million of the city’s revenue and expenditures are related to its gas, electric and water and sewerage funds.
The budget calls for little in the way of capital expenditures. The Electric Department will spend about $215,000 to complete its rebuilding of city circuits. The Water and Sewer Department is budgeted to spend $500,000 to update its two oxidation ponds at Banks Crossing and $150,000 to relocate lines around the intersection of Hwy. 98 and B. Wilson Road for a DOT intersection improvement project. It will also spend $725,000 to provide sewerage service to the Bana Road area, but the developer will re-pay that cost. The Gas Department budget includes $125,000 for gas line renewals and $165,000 to complete a high pressure loop that will provide natural gas to the Commerce 85 Business Park and the Bana Road area.
The Downtown Development Authority has a $70,000 improvement project for its Pine Street Building, which is covered by a grant; and the Commerce Fire Department will spend $30,000 in grant funds for protective gear. Some $107,000 in confiscated drug money will be spent on new vehicles for the police department.
According to McKown, the budget anticipates the city ending the year with about $2.4 million in reserves, much of which is earmarked for future capital projects.