By an 8 to 2 vote, the Athens Clarke County Commission on Tuesday approved Mayor Denson's $194 million budget for FY2014. The vote came after weeks of meetings, work sessions and some tweakings to make sure various programs and services continue.
So, county employees will get a raise. There will still be tours at the Lyndon House. The Athens Clarke County Library will remain open on Thursday afternoons and evenings. And Ryan Moore, the new director of the Economic Development Department, will be able to recruit new industries to Athens.
The mayor got her requested increase of 0.25 mils in the millage rate. This adds $12.50 in property taxes for a house valued at $150,000. Also going up is the water and sewer rate, about $4.28 a house that averages 3,500 gallons a month. But to fund everything the Commission wanted to, the local government had to dip into its fund balance.
During the budget deliberations, Commissioner Allison Wright proposed diverting $286,000 in hotel-motel taxes from the Classic Center to the new Economic Development Department. Doing so would free up money from the general fund and save the fund balance. Commissioner Jared Bailey was the only person supporting this proposal.
Tuesday night, Wright told the Commissioners she looks forward to more discussion on the issue during the next budget cycle. Bailey, who didn't vote for the budget, said the Classic Center has received $70 million over the past 18 years. He believes the money should be redistributed, with more money going for tourism support.
Commissioner Jerry NeSmith said he hopes the $3.6 million, SPLOST-funded tennis center on the Southeast part of town will soon be self-sustaining. "If it fails, it won't be because of the unified government," he said.