Vidalia adopts 2013 budget, reduces spending

Published 12:04 am Friday, June 29, 2012

VIDALIA — Just like most households across the Miss-Lou, the City of Vidalia is looking to pinch every penny in a tough economy.

Which is why the Vidalia Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the city’s 2013 budget during a special meeting Thursday night, with approximately $4,000 less in spending than last year’s budget.

The major change in the budget for the next fiscal years falls in the capital projects portion.

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The 2012 budget allocated $4,944,000 in capital projects for the new 30,000-square foot Vidalia municipal complex.

With the complex being completed earlier this year, the 2013 budget only allocates $80,000 for capital projects — for now.

“If we receive capital funding from state projects, we can go back and amend the budget to find matching funds,” City Manager Ken Walker said. “With the economy being so tough, we need to monitor our budget and make sure we have the right amount to meet the expenses of the city.”

But the completion of the municipal complex also means the city must start paying the $6.94 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that will be paid out over 40 years to finance the complex.

The new loan payment totals a $150,000 increase in the budget’s debt service category.

The other major change in the 2013 budget isn’t a major monetary increase, but does show the city’s expanding technological needs, Walker said.

The information technology departments, both technical and installation, have been separated into their own categories, instead of being lumped into the general fund.

“It just makes it easier to keep up with and more transparent, but we certainly have more technological needs with this new complex,” Walker said. “We went from our old City Hall, which had a few phone lines and computers, to a highly technologically advanced complex.

“So our dependence on a knowledgeable IT department to manage everything is extremely important.”

In other news from the meeting:

• The board approved and swore in several city officials and department heads for the new four-year term, which begins on July 1.

Appointments included:

• City attorney — Jack McLemore.

• City manager — Ken Walker.

• City clerk and tax collector — Vicki Byrnes.

• Assistant city clerk — Fay Garretson.

• Mayor pro tempore — Alderman Vernon Stevens.

• Utility Department head — Mark Morace.

• Street Department head — Lee Staggs.

• Police Department head — Chief Arthur Lewis.

• Office department head — Fay Garretson

• Fire Department head — Chief Jack Langston.

Mayor Hyram Copeland and all aldermen will be sworn in at the city’s next regular meeting on July 10.

“Most of us have been here for many years and there’s not any change, so we’ll let everyone else have their swearing in’s and out’s, and we’ll have ours at the next regular meeting,” Copeland said. “This board has a tremendous working relationship with each other, and I’m very proud to serve along with this board.”