City approves budget with curbside recycling, agencies cuts

Published 8:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2022

The LaGrange City Council unanimously approved the adoption of the city’s 2022 – 2023 budget. The budget includes the elimination of the city’s curbside recycling service — a savings to the city of approximately $158,000 — and a reduction of funding to area agencies, including Harmony House, a LaGrange domestic violence shelter. 

According to city documents, 21 area agencies received a combined $430,843 in funding in the FY 2021 – 2022 budget. With rising operational costs across the board, agencies asked for a combined total of $497,860 in the FY 2022 – 2023 budget – an increase of over $67,000. The agencies were: Harmony House, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, LaGrange Personal Aid, LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, Women of the Church, LaGrange Memorial Library, Troup County Senior Corps Program, Lafayette Society for Performing Arts, Red Cross, West Georgia Star Youth Program [formerly the Boys and Girls Club], West GA Star, Troup Cares, Communities in School, Ark Refuge, Adaptive Growth and Culture Advancement, Salvation Army, DASH, Greater Achievement, Trustbuilding and Communities of Tomorrow. 

Harmony House requested $25,000 from the city in 2021 and 2022. With the cut, Harmony House will only receive $12,500 in the next fiscal year. Harmony House Executive Director Michelle Beddingfield, while voicing thanks to the city for its 16 years of support, said the cut was going to have an impact on its operations in the next year.

“We are going to have to make some budget adjustments to make sure we can find that money elsewhere, but as far as the work we do, that will not change,” Beddingfield said. “We’re going to continue to offer 100% of our services.”

Beddingfield said Harmony House will continue to seek out grants as a funding option, but due to the council’s decision, voiced wariness for future grant awards and the leverage it could give.

“Every grant we write asks for two questions: what percentage of my board supports my agency … and  what percent of [my] local government supports [my agency.] I’ve been able to write I receive support from [the city of LaGrange] but now that answer is going to be ‘no,’” Beddingfield said. She specified Harmony House also does not receive support from the county. 

Some agencies like Red Cross requested as little as $12,660 from the city, while others like DASH requested as much as $100,000, the highest request of the fiscal year. Communities of Tomorrow had the second highest request of $90,000, a 152% increase from its $15,900 request for funding in FY 2022. DASH had the second-highest request. Agencies like the Lagrange Art Museum — which requested $25,000 in the last two fiscal years —  will indeed see an impact on operations, said LaGrange Art Museum Executive Director Laura Jennings.

“LaGrange is attracting so many new residents and our vibrant cultural arts are a driving factor in choosing to make their home here. The arts are crucial to successful economic development and there is a price associated with that. Raising $25,000 in this community is no small task,” Jennings said in an email.

“Will losing $25,000 in city funds impact our operations? Absolutely. Will it define us? No. We will count on those citizens who understand the value of a culturally strong community to make up for this loss. I don’t envy the city council and staff making these hard decisions. I am grateful for the stair-step approach to the ‘weaning’.”

DASH Director of Development Sam Craig echoed a similar disposition.

“DASH is a lean organization with a lean budget. We asked for what we needed to operate. Obviously, we are disappointed, but were aware funding cuts would be a strong possibility,” Craig said via email. “We have been proactively preparing for this and identified financial independence as our top priority in our strategic plan in March. We are an agile organization and despite the funding cuts, we will continue to serve LaGrange and Troup County in a meaningful way. We also have a great relationship with City Manager Meg Kelsey and know the City of LaGrange remains a meaningful partner and supporter in our work.”

CURBSIDE RECYCLING

The dismissal of the curbside recycling service acted as an alternative to further avoid the gas rate increase including cutting out the city’s curbside recycling services, which currently cost the city $158,000 a year. As discussed in a previous meeting, the recycling bins would be repurposed as traditional trash bins. According to a press release from the city, customers are asked to leave their recycling bins by the road for crews to pick them up on Aug. 1. Customers who want to continue recycling plastic, aluminum and paper goods may drop them off at the city’s recycling center at 530 S. Davis Road. The recycling center currently operates 24/7. Residents can request an additional trash bin or a larger trash bin.

Other aspects of the budget include the city once again choosing not to levy a city property tax.

Contact the Public Works Department with any questions or concerns at (706) 883-2100.