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Granite Shoals budget workshop catches errors; hearing Aug. 29

Granite Shoals budget workshop, Aug. 28, 2023

The Granite Shoals City Council convenes a workshop the day before an Aug. 29 public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2023-24 budget. While officials are happy with fund allocations after months of work, some numbers just aren’t adding up. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Granite Shoals officials are working overtime to balance the city’s fiscal year 2023-24 budget in the final hours before presenting it to the public Tuesday, Aug. 29. The required public hearing is 6 p.m. at City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road. 

Members of the City Council and city administration are happy with how funds are allocated, they said in a workshop session Monday night, but certain numbers just aren’t adding up. 

The council discovered errors in the budget at the workshop, leading to the cautionary move of tentatively scheduling a second workshop at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, in case the budget isn’t sorted out by Tuesday night’s hearing.

“We were happy with the way department funds looked and where the money was going,” Mayor Kiel Arnone told DailyTrib.com following Monday’s workshop. “But we sat down and ran the numbers, and they just weren’t adding up.”

Arnone and Place 2 Councilor Kevin Flack had been working with City Manager Peggy Smith to get the budget balanced in the days leading up to the workshop, Arnone said. Over the past few months, no version of the budget was adequately balanced, he said. 

Officials plan to continue working up until Tuesday’s hearing, when residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and review the proposed budget with the council.

“We just want to make sure everything is done right. We’ve been working on this budget for a long time, and we want to make sure everything is on point for the citizens,” Arnone said. “Everyone has worked hard up here (City Hall), and we want to make sure things come out correct.”

The meat and potatoes of the budget are solid, the mayor said. The major adjustments from last year include new staff and a sizable increase to the city’s paving budget. Granite Shoals budgeted for 50 full-time employees, up from 47 last year, including a building permit clerk, a financial services manager, and an assistant city manager. The street paving fund rose by 45 percent, up to $500,000 from $345,000 last year.

“Putting more money into our street paving is huge, and that is something that all of us up here wanted,” Arnone said. “Hopefully, we can grow that each year so we can actually start paving roads here and getting that done for our citizens.”

The council also debated cost-of-living and merit raises for city employees. City Manager Smith proposed 3 percent cost-of-living raises across the board with the option for another 3 percent raise based on performance reviews. While Councilor Micheal Berg initially advocated for 2 percent raises for both cost of living and merit, the whole council eventually agreed on 3 percent after Councilor Kevin Flack noted current inflation rates above that.

“I think 3 percent cost of living, when we’ve averaged 6 percent cost of living (increase) over the next 12 months, is pretty nominal,” Flack said.

Granite Shoals is proposing a $0.508 per $100 evaluation tax rate, a 10.5 percent drop from last year’s rate of $0.568. While the rate has fallen, property tax revenues will jump due to a 24.25 percent increase in appraised property value for the city, which stands at $971 million for 2023 compared to $781 million for 2022. The increase in value combined with the new tax rate will result in $4.9 million in property tax revenues, an 11 percent increase from last year’s $4.4 million. 

Granite Shoals technically has until Sept. 29 to pass its budget, which is the absolute deadline if it intends to collect taxes in the coming fiscal year.

dakota@thepicayune.com