Covington budget set at $120M
City Council to vote Monday on measure

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council will vote on the fiscal year 2010 budget and millage rate Monday night.

The millage rate is proposed to remain at 8.2 mills, where it has been locked for the past two years. City officials are projecting $120.5 million in revenues and about $120 million in expenditures, leaving a surplus of approximately $529,000.

This year's budget is roughly $12 million less than last year's, with cutbacks in personnel and capital projects and a decline in revenues projected.

City Manager Steve Horton said the council is operating on the notion that "a conservative approach was best," noting that revenue projections last year exceeded actual collections.

"There's some cuts," he said. "Some of it is from a conservative approach, some of it because things are down. I feel comfortable we're in a position to make it. We still have money in the bank. We're just trying to be fiscally conservative and do the things we need to do without sticking our neck out there."

The city has between 10 and 12 vacant positions that will remain unfilled, and employee raises will be cut in half, he said.

In addition, "Every department is off on capital projects. We're only doing what we feel like we need to do," he said. "We don't have any wish list projects in there."

Raises for the mayor and council totaling $24,000 are included in the budget, bringing the total for council and mayor salaries from $48,000 to $72,000.

The mayor's salary would increase from $12,000 to $18,000 per year and the yearly salary for council members would increase from $6,000 to $9,000 per year. The current salaries have been in place since 1977.

The raises were initially proposed in February but were taken off the table at the advice of Horton due to the economic climate.

Horton said even if the raises are approved as part of the budget Monday night, they must be approved as a separate item again by the council at an open council meeting. A city ordinance requires any pay raise for elected officials to be approved before qualifying for the next election. Qualifying for the 2009 Municipal Election takes place Aug. 31 through Sept. 4. If approved before then, the raises would go into effect Jan. 1.

City officials are anticipating a decline in revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. Water and sewer tap fees are down about 85 percent due to a lack of new construction, Horton said.

Revenues from electricity sales are down by more than $900,000 from last year. Gas sales are up by about $1 million, though once costs are subtracted, the fund breaks about even, Horton said.

The purchase of electricity and gas takes up the lion's share of expenditures for the budget, accounting for about $40.5 million.

The budget has also been reduced to allow for further retraction of the economy, he said.

"I don't want to scare anybody, but we don't know what the financial condition of all the commercial businesses or retail or industries are here," he said.

The council is expected to vote on the budget and millage rate at its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, located at 2194 Emory St.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.