Smith cited the community’s location in regards to weather, especially in light of the recent hurricane and snow storms. He pointed to the great staff he has to work with at the city.
“Not only are they experts in their field, but passionate about it as well,” Smith said, noting the department directors with the city have an average of 28 years experience in their chosen profession. “It puts me in a fortunate position, but it is good for you too.”
He admitted the city has challenges, including some of the same ones local businesses face, like money and government regulations.
“There’s no problem that money can’t solve,” Smith said, “but the problem is we don’t have that money.”
From a money standpoint, he told the members of Rotary Club of Griffin, “re-evaluation has been a nightmare, for you and for us. We need to know what the taxes will be so we can put a budget together.”
He explained the budgets, however, end up being approved first, before final numbers come in on property values and are based on estimates. He also reminded everyone the tax assessments are done by the county tax assessors office, not the city.
“Before, they said it would be a loss of 15 percent. Then they said it may go up 5 percent as they found some new things out there,” Smith said.
“Then they told us it would probably stay even, with losses and new properties balancing out,” he said in reference to the tax digest. “Two weeks ago, it was even but there’s 5,000 appeals and we’re losing 15 to 20 percent on each one, so hopefully it’s not a loss of more than 5 percent.”
He explained last year the city’s budget was even, “we came in at 100.01 percent of estimated revenue and 93 percent of expenses, with another 7 percent of expenses on projects that have rolled over to this year as they had not been completed.”
Smith said, “that’s not bad, 100 percent expenses and 100 percent revenue, that’s what we do.”
Smith told the Rotary Club, “everything I have to do comes out of your pocket, one way or another, either property taxes, utilities or sales taxes. But the SPLOST also comes out of the pockets of people who visit here.”
He explained “state and federal money is drying up and 60 percent of state DOT money now goes to debt service.”
To fund transportation projects, Smith said, “in 2014, we may have to vote on a continuance of the current SPLOST or ask for a new one to cover our transportation projects.”
He also pointed out, “in 2011, Spalding County residents spent $29,741,178 on lottery tickets. I could do a lot with $29 million, that could pave a lot of roads.”
He said the city has a budget in excess of $100 million, with 500 employees. “We’re a full service city – water, sewer, electric, solid waste, an airport,” Smith said. “We do not do natural gas, which is the only thing I can imagine were not in.”
The city, he said, “has a lot of vehicles – 575 rolling stock to get the job done.”
He spoke about the improvements the electric department is doing. “For the last five years we have spent $3 million a year in infrastructure upgrades.”
Smith also mentioned the new smart meters. “People are afraid we’ll be able to track what there doing in their house,” he said, “they don’t do that, they monitor your usage and tell us when it’s high.”
He said the new meters allow the city to cut the power on or off from the office, which saves on manpower and wasted energy. “We do a lot of disconnects and reconnects because we have a lot of rentals.”
The new meters will also allow the meters to read from the office, “so we don’t have to send out meter readers.”