Proposed LaGrange budget includes small utility and fee increases

Published 8:45 am Thursday, May 25, 2023

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The LaGrange City Council held its annual budget work session on Tuesday morning to go over the proposed FY2024 presented by City Manager Meg Kelsey.

The city is projecting $37.5 million in revenue for FY24, which represents a 5.1% increase over the previous year. Budgeted expenditures are projected to increase by 5.6%, so several utility and fee increases were recommended by Kelsey.

Kelsey presented a balanced budget with conservative projections. She said they do anticipate a small surplus by the end of FY24. The city will continue to fund its operations using utility sales and will not impose a property tax.

The biggest portion of the city’s revenue, 46.8%, comes from LOST and SPLOST sales taxes and other taxes. Sales tax revenues rose by 7.7% from 2022 to 2023. 

Transfers from other departments, primarily utility sales, make up most of the remainder of the city’s revenue at 43.4% of the overall income.

The majority of expenditures will go to public safety at 56.7%, followed by general government (15.8%), public works (14.4%), culture & recreation (7.2%),  debt service (2.6%) and community development (1.4%). The remaining expenses are less than 1% of the overall budget.

Kelsey said a small gas rate increase is included in the proposed budget to help other funds. 

She said extremely warm weather over the winter caused a significant drop in gas sales. Heating degree days were 15.8% below normal with January sales at a five-year low. Sales have decreased an average of .5% over the last 10 years, she said.

Under the proposed gas rate increase, the residential base rate would increase from $15 to $18 per month for winter and $5 to $6 for summer. 

The volumetric rate would increase from $0.600 to $0.685 per therm.

For commercial customers, the base rate would increase from $400 to $500 per month and the volumetric rate would increase from $0.135 to $0.150 per therm.

The city is also proposing a sanitation rate increase of $3 per can for all garbage pickup customers. Residential curbside 65-gallon containers would go from $17 per month to $20 per month and 95-gallon containers would go from $20 to $23.

Tire disposal will also increase from $120 per ton to $155 per ton. Individual tire disposals for Troup County residents will also increase from $1.50 per passenger-vehicle tire to $3 per tire and $3.75 to $5.75 for tires on the rim.

Non-residents will see increases from $3 to $5 per tire for passenger-vehicle tires and $5 to $8 for on-rim tires.

Large truck tire disposal will remain unchanged.

As previously reported by The LaGrange Daily News, the city is also considering a 2-3 percent increase to electric rates to pay for proposed police officer raises.

The city is considering an increase in police starting salaries to $60,000 to help with recruitment and raises of $8,000 to help with officer retention. 

The department currently has a deficit of 18 officers, not including the five officers requested by the Troup County School System to serve as school resource officers.

Overall, the department would like to hire an additional 23 new officers but has had difficulty attracting people for the positions.

The proposed budget also includes several utility reconnection fee increases.

Kelsey suggested a $10 increase to reconnect fees for nonpayment. 

Regular nonpayment reconnect fees would increase from $30 to $40 and overtime reconnects would increase from $40 to $50. 

Insufficient funds check charges would also increase from $25 to $35. Kelsey said the bank is currently charging the city $35 for returned checks.