A $37.8 million budget for Villa Rica is set to be adopted next week during a meeting of the City Council.

The 2022 fiscal year budget is 8% less than the 2021 spending plan and is described by city officials as “very lean,” reflecting less revenue in some of the city’s income sources. It is based on a city millage rate of 6.250, the same as adopted in 2021.

The council is set to vote on the budget during a hearing that starts at 6 p.m. on Sept. 21 at the Holt-Bishop Justice Center, 101 Main Street. The proposed budget is available for public viewing on the city’s website, although it is subject to further changes before adoption.

In a transmittal letter to the council that prefaces the budget, Mayor Gil McDougal notes that some of the city’s revenue streams, particularly sales tax and hotel-motel tax, are improving as the overall economy bounces back from 2020. But residential and commercial building permits are in decline, reflecting the lingering effects of last year’s economic slowdown.

The budget anticipates a decrease in permit revenue of $382,500. But the budget also anticipates an increase in the city’s sales tax revenues to $272,139, as well as $120,000 in increases from the Recreation Department and Pine Mountain Gold Museum.

After raising water rates over three successive years, the city council did not include a rate increase in its FY 2021 budget. But the proposed budget for 2022 includes an increase in volume rates that will translate into an 86-cent increase for water customers. The budget proposes no increase in sewer fees.

Sanitation fees will increase for those who have two carts for their residential curbside trash pickups. The city already provides one cart at a reduced rate for the trash service provided by GFL Environmental.

The city had provided a second cart at a discounted rate of $5.45 per month after GFL discontinued its recycling program. But that additional discount had proved to be a financial strain on sanitation services, which are supposed to be self-supporting. So, the proposed budget raises that monthly fee for a second cart to $12.66.

While the city has lowered its proposed general fund expenses by 8%, it nevertheless is planning to move forward with $7.4 million in capital projects next year, the most expensive of which are related to water infrastructure upgrades.

Only a small portion (6%) of the capital budget is paid for from the general fund. Most of the capital projects are funded from other revenue sources, including utility fees and special local option sales tax revenue, specifically the city’s share of the Douglas County SPLOST.

Another anticipated source of capital project revenue is a $1.9 million low-interest loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). That will pay for upgrades to the city’s north water treatment plant. This will be the first phase of what will eventually be a $10 million upgrade plan for that facility.

Despite trimming the general fund budget, the city plans to continue its investment in its employees. The budget does not include a cost-of-living increase, but it does plan to boost employee benefits by over $300,000, including making additions to the city’s self-funded insurance, workers’ compensation, and retirement plans.

McDougal’s transmittal letter notes that some of the city’s increased operating expenses for the new fiscal year are beyond the city’s control, such as liability insurance, utilities, fuel, and other supplies