The city’s fiscal year begins July 1.
The general fund contains many of the core functions of the government, from police and fire to streets and sanitation that citizens see on a daily basis. The overall budget for the city is much larger because it includes federal programs, grant funds and the Board of Lights and Water, the city’s utility. Bruton will present the council with the full budget May 29.
Bruton is considering a general fund budget that would balance revenues and expenditures at $48.84 million, an increase of 1.4 percent or $690,443 over the existing 2013 budget.
While the budget is not yet finalized, there is enough money in the draft he’s working on to allow for a potential 2 percent employee pay raise in January.
“A decision on whether to implement this or not would not be made until that time so that we can see how our revenues and expenditures are progressing and what the economic outlook is,” he said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he approves of the raises if the economy supports them.
“We’ve got some good folks, and we have to stay competitive and in line with others,” Tumlin said. “The labor market seems to be getting a little bit stronger.”
The budget has a proposed reserve fund of $16.8 million.
In November, the Cobb Board of Commissioners awarded its employees a 3 percent pay raise.
One of the actions the City Council takes to keep property taxes low is it transfers millions from the city utility to the general fund. That amount is expected to be the same for the new budget, at $11.5 million. Bruton said the transfer keeps the property tax rate of 2.788 mills down by about 4 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
Some critics have accused the city of playing a shell game in which after it transfers $11.5 million from the BLW to the general fund to keep property taxes low, it then hikes electric, water and sewer rates for BLW customers. Bruton said he doesn’t see it that way.
The transfer amount has remained the same for the last four years, he said.
“The increases that the BLW has put forward during that same time have only been pass-through in cost from the BLW’s suppliers,” Bruton said. “Marietta is fortunate to be a city that has both the lowest tax rates of a city our size in metro Atlanta and the lowest electric rates in our area.”
Overall, the news is favorable, Tumlin said.
“We’ve learned to live with less employees,” the mayor said. “It shows that we’re not increasing our capital budget. We still have a very low capital budget, which I don’t know how much longer we can do. But I think by not raising taxes and not raising fees, and still delivering the same amount of services, I think the citizens should look on this as a very positive and beneficial budget.”