“We need to restore fiscal sanity,” councilman Ed Miklas said. “You’ve got to make the cuts.”
While no one opposed making cuts, the tie vote occurred on the matter of terminating two contract employees in the maintenance department or to scale back the hours and see if that change would help keep revenue in the general fund. In the end, Mayor Ron Casey voted with two council members to spare jobs and cut hours for two maintenance employees to 25 per week and two others to 30 per week.
The council also approved a local option sales tax referendum as discussed earlier in the week. The referendum allows Kingston to receive the same portion of sales tax as it did before the change in population. According to the 2010 census, Kingston decreased in inhabitants by 23 people and Casey noted that if the town did not grow, it may cease to exist in the future as a designated city with a charter.
Moving forward in their discussions, the mayor shared some of the problems the city is facing with the council and all residents in attendance.
“I was looking through some of my wife’s aunt’s effects and found these old newspaper clippings,” the mayor said, sharing with the council where he discovered that the city had adopted an ordinance on demolishing old, unsafe buildings as well as forcing people to clean up their properties.
“We need to clean the town up,” Casey said. “We have had a lack of enforcement of city codes for I don’t know how long and we need to get someone to enforce these codes. It’s gonna make some people mad because they don’t want to clean up and fix up.”
The mayor continued that the council needs to appoint people to a long-range development committee to find ways for Kingston to grow. Also addressing issues, Casey told the council that the water system is outdated, which includes the iron pipes as well as the plastic pipes and “the plastic pipes have gone past their useful age,” Casey said.
“With this [U.S. Department of Agriculture] grant that we’re looking at, most of [those improvements] are outside the city limits,” Casey said. “Certainly, those people need it, but the city, in my opinion, cannot afford that loan and if you decide that you want to afford that loan, the $4,000 a month is gonna have to come from somewhere.”
Looking at the city’s budget, general consensus was the council will have to take the figures one line at a time and find where small and drastic cuts can be taken. At this point, the council has approved to continue the police department with hopes that the department will bring in revenue.
“I think we need to keep the police department and I think the police department needs to generate revenue,” Casey said. “But, not at the expense of the city being known as a speed trap. They can generate a good deal by enforcing these ordinances on the people with these old, junky, run-down houses that are dangerous and unhealthy and stop the speeding.”
One citizen spoke to the council, saying that the department “can justify itself without having to touch that ridiculous highway,” referencing Ga. Highway 411, which is beyond the city limits.
In closing, the council voted to make revisions to the budget as recommended by Capable CPA and continue their own budget amendments at a later date once bills are paid and the council knows how much revenue is available. To keep money in the general fund, the council finally voted to pay a loan through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds as opposed to taking that amount from the general fund each month. This option was discussed several months ago but never officially voted on.
The mayor also told council that electricity has been restored to lights at the baseball field, making it possible to rent the field out for tournaments. Adding a net above the fence to prevent fly balls from hitting vehicles was mentioned and may be considered as a purchase in the near future from SPLOST funds for improvements to the park.
The city’s next scheduled work session is set for July 2, at 7 p.m. at city hall.