Vidalia budget not yet approved, could shut down town’s funds at end of year

Published 12:17 am Thursday, November 29, 2018


VIDALIA — The Vidalia Board of Aldermen failed to adopt a 2019 fiscal year budget during a special-called meeting Tuesday night, a move that could shut down the town’s funds without action before a Dec. 31 deadline, town officials have said.

At issue are the results of a utility rates study the town had conducted earlier this year and how rate changes paid to the city would factor into the proposed budget that is prepared by the town accountant, Debra Moak.

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The original proposed budget was tabled prior to a deadline on June 30 and has since been revised and presented twice in different meetings of the board, but aldermen Sabrina Doré, Tommy Probst and Triand McCoy would not approve it.

During a Nov. 14 aldermen meeting, Doré said if a budget were not approved by Dec. 31, the town’s budget would automatically become one-half of the present budget.

During Tuesday’s meeting, McCoy asked why the board hadn’t discussed the utility rate study conducted earlier in the year — which result in added changes to the budget — and Probst and Doré echoed McCoy’s objection.

In March, Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft proposed seeking professional help to lower the citizen’s utility costs in a way that would not harm the town’s funding.

Rick Nowlin of Nowlin and Associates was hired to conduct the study and proposed making affordable cuts from the city’s expenditures that could help offset the cost of a higher utility bill.

“He made quite a few statements about things we need to address,” McCoy said.

Craft said the rate study has been factored into the proposed budget and can be discussed further after the aldermen approve the budget.

However, aldermen Probst and Doré questioned why that discussion did not happen sooner.

“We said two months ago that we were going to have finalization of that rate study, and we don’t have it yet,” Probst said. “That’s very important to me before I do anything regarding this budget.”

Doré tried to make a motion to table the budget a second time until the discussion of the rate study can take place. However, Craft promptly adjourned the meeting before a vote on the motion could be made.

“The budget is based on some changes from the utility rate study,” Doré said. “We cannot make an informed decision on this budget without being given all of the information.”

Craft said failure to approve a budget would legally prevent him from signing checks for the town’s expenditures.

Craft said he would resort to legal actions against the board of aldermen if deemed necessary to pass the budget, but only as a last resort.

“Employees and residents come in and debate the budget and won’t even discuss it,” Craft said. “That is what is frustrating to me. … I’m going to continue to do my job, and they can choose to go along with it or not.”

Craft said he plans to call for another meeting next Tuesday and discuss what needs to be done so the budget can be passed.