During the council’s Monday night work session, Mayor Ron Casey asked the council to take their copies of the budget home with them so it could be handled during the next meeting.
“This will give you something to look at ... between now and the next regular meeting,” Casey said. “Any questions that you have need to be answered. Let’s try to get those done before the next council session.”
The budget item, which was not on the agenda provided at the meeting and was discussed without an amending vote, drew questions from a Kingston resident at the end of the meeting. The resident, who declined to provide her name, asked why it took so long for the council to consider a 2013 budget.
“I haven’t come to a lot of the meetings, so maybe that this has been presented before, so I apologize. But coming here tonight and realizing we are down into the month of November, am I correct that the fiscal year is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of each year? Is that your budget year — your fiscal year — Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 and we don’t have a budget yet for 2013 and there’s only a few weeks left in the year,” she said.
When the council said that was the case, the resident asked why that happened.
“Is there a reason why the city didn’t have a budget before now to make sure that they stayed on track for everything?” the resident said.
Casey turned to City Clerk Michelle Jones, asking if she could answer the question.
“No. I talked to her during the closed session,” Jones said.
Casey then answered the question himself.
“The city treasurer is responsible for making up, keeping up with the budget and spending it, and the clerk for doing the budget, and we just now got the budget,” he said.
The resident then had another question.
“But, going back to that, with it being November is there a reason why the mayor and the council members did not insist on a budget months ago? I mean, I don’t understand, how — I don’t understand how it can function this way,” she said.
Casey turned to the council and asked if anyone had an answer. Council member Louise Howell made mention of the information not being available for the budget. Council member Chuck Wise then responded as well.
“Best that I can remember that the decision was made we would go back and operate off of the old budget of 2012 until we can get something in place,” he said. “I can’t really answer that question, but I do remember that it was recommended to us that we go back and run off of the 2012 budget until we could have one passed.”
The Daily Tribune News can find no record of a continuing resolution, or other action, officially holding Kingston to the 2012 budget.
Casey also said there was a formatting issue that delayed the budget.
“One thing is, Mr. Posey asked that we change the format of the budget to match the format of the monthly reports and the company that does that, Capable Finance, apparently just now got it through,” he said.
When asked about next year’s budget, Jones said she worked on it while she worked on the 2013 budget. She also mentioned changes within the city led to the delay in creating a current budget.
“But, like I told her, we kind of changed heads. At first it was unclear who was doing the budget and then we had a couple of different times we brought a budget to the table, but nobody liked the format, and that’s when we went to this right here,” she said. “So I just don’t think it was clear on who was actually doing the budget.”
During the meeting the council also discussed what to do about some tree limbs hanging over power lines going to the Railroad Street well. Casey said the limbs needed to be handled as the city could not afford to lose power to the well, saying Kingston uses the well 50 percent of the time. Wise said he would speak with Georgia Power “first thing in the morning.”
The following discussion focused on what to do with the city’s remaining Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds. Jones said the city had more than $100,000 of SPLOST funds remaining, while Casey put the number closer to $150,000. He read from a list of approved SPLOST projects, including water department repairs, improvements to the city’s park and the potential sewer project. Among the immediate issues, he said, was a request from Sweitzer Engineering requesting payment for plans relating to the U.S. Department of Agriculture-financed water system repairs.
“Well now, Mr. Sweitzer wanted $100,000, and he suggested we use SPLOST money, but I’m against giving him all the SPLOST money for a set of plans. I just don’t see that. You take what little money you have to do something with for a set of plans that no council member approved him doing,” he said.
Council members asked if the interim financing for the USDA loan was still active, but Jones said it was not. Casey said the city would have to reapply. Council member Harold Posey asked for a SPLOST budget to determine where the funds would go.
Casey then asked the council to consider what roads needed to be paved within the city, as he had received a letter from the Georgia Department of Transportation informing him funding is available for a project. He suggested Kitchen’s Alley needed to be repaved, as it contains a number of potholes.
The idea of repaving brought some council members back to the idea of fixing the water leaks in the city.
“With all of the water repairs and things that we’re having to do since this new well was put online and producing water the way it’s supposed to do — and you’re still having water leaks — I know the roads need to be paved, but I think we need to look at something else before we go to start putting new asphalt on the roads and, in three months, three weeks later, we’re out there digging them up,” said Wise. “I’ve never seen a good patch put back on the road.”
Casey said the best plan to fix the water system was to do it on a street-by-street basis.
“The best plan that somebody would work out for water in Kingston is go street by street, get enough money, get that street. Get enough money, do the next street, instead of $1,300,000 loan plus the money they was going to give us, just give us, which was just a fraction of the cost,” Casey said, referring to the USDA loan. “Because it puts the people of Kingston in debt for 40 years for that particular project.”
The council also went into an executive session to discuss personnel matters. No actions were announced.
After a discussion, the council decided to move its next meeting up one week. The next Kingston City Council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at city hall.