Wood is projecting $7,770,231 in revenue over the next nine months as the city moves to a calendar-year budget ending Dec. 31. That number includes an estimated $1,562,048 in local option sales tax (LOST) money from Carroll and Douglas counties, which he said should allow for at least some small relief for property owners.
The millage rate has been steady at 6.775 mills since 2008. Wood said the extra money from the LOST funds should allow the city to drop its rate to possibly 6.665 mills.
“Probably the most significant thing we accomplished last year was renegotiating two local option sales tax agreements,” Wood said. “I want to compliment y’all for standing tough.”
Villa Rica is now getting 3.67 percent from Douglas County, up from 0.69 percent under the prior LOST deal, and 7.85 percent from Carroll County, an increase from the 6.5 percent under the old agreement.
Wood said Douglas County started paying the city the higher rate in October, ahead of schedule, accounting for about $60,000 in additional revenue for that month alone.
Wood and Chief Financial Officer Julia Luke will take the policy goals and visions set by the City Council and mayor Thursday and work with department heads to iron out the expenditure side of the budget in the next month.
The council will get its first look at the official budget proposal March 1 and will vote on it at its April 2 meeting.
Meanwhile, the city has been addressing public safety, recreation department funding and the library.
Wood said the Villa Rica Police Department got 12,000 calls last year and that criminal investigations rose to more than 1,100.
There was consensus from the mayor and city council that the focus of the Villa Rica Police Department needs to change from traffic offenses to public safety. Collins said he’s been pushing for two years for police to focus more on patrolling neighborhoods and businesses.
Ward 3 Councilman Rusty Dean, who was the victim of a recent burglary, agreed.
“That’ll reduce the revenues, but it will increase our productivity as far as crime,” said Dean.
Ward 2 Councilman Verland Best echoed Dean’s comments that public safety needed to be a priority over money.
Funding for the Villa Rica Parks and Recreation Department was a contentious issue at Thursday’s meeting. Debate centered on whether recreation should be a service offered to citizens or whether it should be self-supporting.
City Clerk Barbara Daniell, speaking for Collins, who had to leave Thursday’s meeting early, said the mayor wanted to “strive to move it to more of an enterprise fund to help break even.”
Dean took the other side.
“There are some things that a city does that aren’t meant to be profitable or to break even,” Dean said. “They’re part of the services and quality of life a city provides to its citizens.”
Luke told the council some cities where she worked previously paid 60 or 70 percent of the participant fees and let the participants pay the remainder.
Currently, Carroll County pays part of the participation fee for county residents in most sports. Douglas County doesn’t pay for its residents who cross the county line to use Villa Rica’s recreation programs, something Wood and the council would like to see change.
Regarding the library, Wood said the city is looking at purchasing an existing building. The current library is 5,000 square feet and Wood said the city needs 10,000 square feet.
“We need to make a decision,” said Ward 4 Councilman Patrick Henrickson. “Do we want to add on to an existing building? Do we want to build a new building? Let’s be specific on what we want to do so we have a goal to achieve.”
Wood said he planned to take the issue to the library board and “go from there.”
Despite the issues, Wood said the overall financial health of the city is “sound” with cash reserves.
Wood said one thing he would personally like to see is a pay increase for city employees this year.
“I’m not talking about a lot,” Wood said. “I just feel strongly that we need to give some kind of cost of living – or performance if you want it to be performance-based – increase to our employees. We’ve got certified people that we’re already starting to lose.”