Blue Ridge Budget Tighter for 2013

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The Blue Ridge City Council approved the first reading of its 2013 budget yesterday during a called meeting. Mayor Donna Whitener called the 2013 budget tighter than that of previous years. While the 2012 Amended Budget was $2,309,442, the proposed 2013 budget fell to $2,087,338. Whitener said one of the biggest changes in the proposed budget from the 2012 budget is in the Fine and Forfeitures allotment. She went on to explain the city is sending more money to the state than in previous years, including DUI fines.

According to the proposed 2013 budget, Miscellaneous Revenue fell from $356,000 to $66,700. Whitener said the reason for the drop was due to the $265,000 insurance check for the repair of the Swan Theatre screen, which was replaced in the summer. The $66,700 for 2013 includes rent payments from The Blue Ridge Marina of $1,300, the Train Depot of $3,245, and the Swan Theatre, $500.

Council also approved a budget amendment, which included Legal and Consulting costs.

“Our Legal was higher than expected,”

Whitener said,

“But there was revenue in other areas to balance it.”

Also, under the Consulting column, the city paid $16,000 for consulting fees for the Local Option Sales Tax (L.O.S.T.) negotiations. In October, Blue Ridge, MacCaysville, and Fannin County started negotiations to divvy up the tax. At the end of a mediation session in early October, the three governments were in gridlock. Negotiations are still pending.

Another, more foreboding expenditure in the Blue Ridge budget is the increase in the city’s health insurance cost. Health cost increased 13 percent or $35,000 from last year, which is the city’s portion of the health insurance increases mandated by the Patient Protection Act (Obamacare). The increase is yet another signal that health care cost will skyrocket in the New Year due to the specter of Obamacare, not only for governments, but for private employers as well.

Blue Ridge Financial Director Alicia Stewart said Holiday Pay for city employees was also included in the budget, which she said was approximately $200 for 140 employees.

The Streetscape project, however, was not included. Whitener said that the reason for this is because the project is tied to a Federal Transportation Grant and uses SPLOST money for the city’s portion of the match. The project, she said, has a separate budget and is available to the public.

Council is slated to adopt the budget at its next regular meeting on December 11th at 6:00 P.M.

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