New budget adopted for Vidalia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia’s board of aldermen voted Monday night to adopt an $8,679,266 budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The biggest change in the budget this year was pay increases to both elected officials and city employees, City Manager Ken Walker said.

City employees will receive a 5 percent pay raise across the board, a decision approved unanimously at Monday’s meeting. Salary increases for the mayor, police chief and aldermen were approved at the aldermen’s June 10 meeting.

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The mayor’s salary will increase from approximately $55,000 to $69,500 a year, the chief of police will get a raise from $40,000 to $55,000 a year and the aldermen will receive $600 a month, up from $250 a month to a total salary of approximately $7,200 a year.

The funds for those pay increases will largely come from increased sales tax collections, though they will also be drawn from other sources.

“The budget is taken as a whole, not as one source,” Walker said. “You can’t really tie salary to one revenue source. No expense is tied to one revenue source.”

Last year’s budget was originally set approximately $10,951,000, and at Monday’s meeting the aldermen voted to amend it to $9,779,080.

Some the decrease in spending for the upcoming fiscal came from the fact that most of the city’s construction projects — phase II construction at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, for example — are nearly completed.

“Most of those monies have been spent in the current (2008) fiscal year,” Walker said.

Other changes in the budget will come from changes in practice.

One of those changes in practice will be that the town will lease instead of buying some equipment, Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“That will save us approximately $150,000 on a dump truck,” Copeland said. “The equipment is guaranteed for the period we lease it, so that will also save us on maintenance costs.”

Another of those changes will be disallowing employees to continue to take town vehicles home, Walker said.

“We’re doing that to try to save on costs from gas prices to wear and tear,” he said. “We think it will be more cost effective.”

When budgeting for rising gas prices, the city does not give a line item for gasoline, which it buys by contract, but instead lumps it under the category “supplies.”

“That gives a little more flexibility, and we have to be more careful and may have to delay some other expenses, but we try to base (gas prices) reasonably on last year’s,” Walker said. “We are budgeting for gas prices to be higher than last year.”