Proposed LaGrange budget cuts back on agency funding

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council held its annual session to discuss the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Discussion ranged from eliminating 18 positions with the sale of commercial sanitation to various projects throughout the city to areas that will need attention in the future.

However, there was relatively little conversation on what has traditionally been the most controversial section of the annual budget — agency appropriations. 

In past years, the City of LaGrange has provided funding to agencies that the city council agrees will provide a substantial benefit to citizens in a way that the city could not. However, in recent years, the LaGrange City Council has become increasingly conservative with those funds, and made substantial cuts to agency funding when putting together the 2018-2019 budget. 

During the council retreat in March, council members expressed a desire to use a set of guidelines that could be applied to all outside agencies that receive city funding. 

“We’ve given [City Manager] Meg Kesley some guidelines, and she’s worked with it and made things fit the guidelines,” Council Member Tom Gore said Tuesday. “It takes the emotion out of it a little bit in that she has been given some objective measures to follow, and I think she has done a great job. So, I think we need to back her up.”

Those new guidelines were applied to agencies funded in the fiscal year 2019/2020 city budget discussed Tuesday.

“Each agency got no more than $25,000, and I capped — based on what their budget was — no more than 25 percent of their budget,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “Then I said that the maximum agency [funding] would not exceed $500,000.” 

Local agencies that saw lower contributions from the city in the FY 2019/2020 budget compared to the FY 2018/2019 budget included Harmony House with $25,000 (down from $30,000), LaGrange Personal Aid with $25,000 (down from $35,000), LaGrange Art Museum with $25,000 (down from $44,000), Keep Troup Beautiful with $12,350 (down from $15,385), LaGrange Memorial with $25,000 (down from $36,000), Boys & Girls Club with $25,000 (down from $40,000) and Communities In Schools with $25,000 (down from $30,000).

Teen Maze did not receive any funds in the proposed FY 2019/2020 budget, compared to $2,250 in the FY 2018/2019 budget. Neither did CAFI, the Choral Society of West Georgia and THINC College.

However, some agencies did see increases including Ark Refuge with $25,000 (up from $20,000), the Foster Grand Parent/Senior Companion program with $12,000 (up from $10,000), Adaptive Growth and Cultural Advancement with $3,750, LaGrange Shrine Club with $6,250 (previously not funded), Allstar Football Camp with $963 (previously not funded), and the Veterans Fishing Organization with $3,000 (previously not funded).

Council Member Mark Mitchell recommended both the Veterans Fishing Organization, and the LaGrange Shrine Club as possible agencies to be funded.

The city’s one time, $180,000 contribution to the expansion of the Troup County Archives in space owned by the county was also listed under agency funding, but council members agreed that unlike other groups listed, the archive expansion is necessary to maintain legally required archive storage. Kelsey agreed to place the expense in another budget category, leaving agency expenditures at close to half the $565,932 the city dedicated to local agencies in the fiscal year 2017/2018 budget.

“If you back out that $180,000, we are talking about a total agency allocation budget of $273,473, which is substantially lower than the past,” Mayor Jim Thornton said.

The LaGrange City Council also cut city funding to a number of organizations last year, including Certified Literate Communities, Circles of Troup County, Success by 6, Fellowship Deliverance and Literacy Volunteers of Troup County.

The City of LaGrange will hold a budget hearing and first reading on the city budget on June 11 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue. The city council will vote on the budget on June 25.