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Aldermen to hold first public budget hearing tonight

August 2, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Board of Aldermen will hold a presentation and public hearing on a draft of the city’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year during its meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Also on the agenda are votes to amend a sanitation ordinance and adopt a master plan for new municipal facilities. The board will also decide on holding a public vote on a bond issue to pay for the construction outlined in the municipal complex’s master plan.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the public hearing will be the first of two, and the second hearing will be the earliest the budget will come to a vote. The board’s deadline to decide on a budget is Sept. 15.
Sistrunk said the current draft of the budget shows few changes between fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
“We’ve done our very best to keep the budget flat and to live within our means,” Sistrunk said. “We’ve kept the budget lean. At this point, we’re not calling for tax increases.”
Earlier in the year, Sistrunk said, city department heads filled out forms to request funds for the next fiscal year. A 178-page revenue and expense worksheet, posted with the board’s agenda to the city website, compiles those requests and compares them with the budgets for 2010 and 2011. The requests for the 2012 budget currently total $16,258,169.
That figure is $1,790,134 higher than total expenditures for 2010. Because the 2011 fiscal year does not finish until Sept. 30, only an estimate of total expenditures for 2011 is available: $15,160,836. Sistrunk said final numbers for 2011 will likely differ, because the estimate’s core is an average of expenditures for October-May.
“Because of the shortcomings in our software and the way it estimates annual expenses, the estimate for fiscal year 2011 shouldn’t have a high degree of confidence associated with it,” Sistrunk said. “For instance, most of our road construction occurs during the summer months, and that estimate doesn’t consider variations in expenditures related to timing of expenses like road construction.”
Another facet of the worksheet that is more complex than it appears, Sistrunk said, is the set of budget surpluses shown for 2010 and projected for 2011. The sheet shows a $1,223,780 surplus in 2010 and a projected $1,630,050 surplus for 2011.
“Don’t be misled into thinking we took in more than $1 million,” Sistrunk said. “Part of that $1 million actually gets rolled over into that next year’s budget and gets spent next year.”
The board will also hear a presentation of a master plan for the city’s municipal facilities and consider adopting it. Following that vote, on the agenda is a resolution to hold a public vote on a $8,455,000 bond issue to renovate City Hall and build a new police station at the corner of Highway 182 and Jackson Street.
Sistrunk said a date for the public vote has yet to be determined, but it will not likely coincide with county elections.
“There are five districts for county elections and seven districts for city elections,” Sistrunk said. “It would be very difficult to align with the cycle of elections that are going on right now. It would probably be a stand-alone election.”
After tabling the measure at its July 19 meeting, the board will vote again on proposed changes to a sanitation ordinance dealing with solid waste. Preceding the vote will be a third public hearing on the amendments.
Sistrunk said the new amendment up for discussion addresses issues that came up in past discussions, including unclear definitions of “stumps, logs and tree trunks,” and questions about penalties for leaving garbage for curbside pickup outside designated hours.
The board will also:
u Hear a quarterly report on Starkville Parks and Recreation programs and projects by park commission Chairman Dan Moreland and park Director Matthew Rye;
u Consider a request from Diane Wall to place a Humane Society flyer in the Starkville Electric Department’s billing cycle;
u Consider amending bylaws of the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee to reflect changes in terms, term limits and attendance requirements;
u Consider authorizing funds to extend the Pecan Road overlay to include the street’s full length.

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