West Point approves city budget

Published 10:29 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

By Charlotte Reames

The West Point City Council held a second public hearing on the city budget on Nov. 28. Though there was no public comment during the meeting, one city council member made a comment about her hopes for the upcoming budget.

The city of West Point’s 2024 proposed budget is higher than last year because of an increased tax revenue and utility revenue.

For the upcoming year, City Manager Ed Moon presented a proposed budget of $28,433,382.06, which is an increase of $6,973,707 from the current year’s budget.

No citizens commented on the proposed budget. However, city council member Deedee Williams made a comment about the recreation budget.

Williams said she hoped to see the city council put additional funding toward opening a new community pool. The previous pool was closed several years ago. 

“We will have lost a generation of children,” Williams said. 

Many of the city council candidates in the recent city election spoke about improving recreation. Williams ran for mayor but lost to incumbent Mayor Steve Tramell. She will not be returning to the city council next term.

Williams said West Point has an even stronger need for a community pool than other cities because of West Point Lake and Chattahoochee River being nearby. 

“We can’t be blinded by poor excuses,” Williams said. 

The reason for the increased revenue for the city directly related to an increase in tax revenue from some industries in West Point whose PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Tax) incentive programs have ended. Some of the automobile industries such as Kia who entered tax abatements are now paying the full tax to the city. 

The PILOT program is an agreement for qualified companies to make tax payments at a reduced rate over time.

Another increase comes from the utility revenue that West Point is collecting from a cryptomining customer. EZ Blockchain crypto mining company came to the city in 2020. The company is now the largest electric utility customer on the city electric system.

According to Moon, the company uses more electricity than the rest of the city itself. 

EZ Blockchain uses underutilized energy “that would otherwise be sitting idly,” according to a company press release. The company partnered with the city on the “8 MW” expansion project to generate more local jobs and revenue.

Moon said the company will continue to grow over the years. Part of the project included adding four more EZ Blockchain mobile data centers to the area.

The electric utilities department budget saw a significant increase of $4,402,468.

West Point already has plans for allocating the additional revenue throughout its departments. Several departments are hiring on new staff including the police department, fire and EMS, 911 communications, public works, utilities and general government.

The police department’s budget will increase by approximately $413,000 whereas the fire and EMS budget will increase by around $341,000. The general government budget also saw an increase of almost $500,000.

Some funds will also be allotted for purchasing a new loader truck, ambulance and digger derrick truck for the utilities/electric department. New police cruisers and general service vehicles will also be purchased.