Kingston releases 2014 budget
by Jason Lowrey
Jul 20, 2014 | 1708 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On July 14 Kingston introduced its 2014 budget. Though several months late, it is the first legally introduced budget the city has had in more than a year.

The city will hold a public hearing on the budget Monday, July 28, at 7 p.m. at city hall. Citizens may also go to city hall to examine a copy of the proposed budget.

Overall, the budget is a balanced one. Total revenues and total expenditures are both set at $309,681. The balanced budget is a contrast to the 2013 actual numbers, which list $296,525.41 in revenue and $341,026.15 in expenses. The 2013 actual numbers, then, represent a shortfall of $44,500.74.

Penson said the actual 2013 numbers came from bank statements rather than the 2013 budget the city council approved on Nov. 11, 2013. That budget also was illegal under Georgia law, as it did not go through the required two meetings, public hearing and public comment period.

The 2014 budget’s water summary anticipates revenues of $140,000 from water charges, $500 from connection and reconnection fees and $2,000 from penalties. The operating revenue totals $142,500.

Total operating expenses for the water department are budgeted at $130,652, which results in an operating income of $11,848.

In spite of the positive operating income of $11,848, the water summary lists a decrease in net assets of $7,252. In the non-operating revenues section of the summary, interest earnings are set at $600. Also listed in the same section are expenses of $17,000 toward a principal, $2,700 toward interest and an expense listed as capital water of $216,254. The three numbers make for a total expense of $235,354.

However, the amount listed for the capital water expense is the exact same amount given for a transfer in from the city’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds: $216,254. Indeed, the SPLOST fund section of the budget lists expected revenues of $216,254. The entire amount is set to be transferred into the water fund, with no money budgeted for public works, water infrastructure or recreation.

The $216,254 also represents a large increase from the 2013 actual SPLOST revenues, which were $147,610.35.

When asked why the SPLOST funds into the water department appeared to be listed as both a transfer and an expense, Mayor Wanda Penson said she did not know. After working on the budget alone for most of the year, Penson said she contacted the city’s accountant, Sabrina Cape with Capable Financial Solutions, to assist her with the budget.

“Capital water, that’s what we’re supposed to get through SPLOST,” Penson said. “She put it under that for some reason, but, see it’s exactly what our transfer from SPLOST is supposed to be. So we cannot actually count that until we use it. It is there to use, but until we use it it’s just there.”

Cape did not respond to multiple calls and a message seeking comment on the budget before deadline.

Among the other expenses estimated in the budget, $38,683 is listed for the legislative department, or items relating to the city council. Among the expenditures listed are $7,200 for the city council’s salary, $5,500 for attorney services, $12,000 for insurance other than employee benefits and $10,613 for contingencies.

The executive department budget has a total expenditure of $79,689. The largest single expense in the executive department budget is $38,400 listed for regular employees. Personal services in the department total $42,144, purchased and contracted services $26,870 and supplies total $10,675.

No regular employees are listed in the street department section of the budget, but the city does have $16,675 budgeted for contract labor. The street department’s expenditures total $62,765.

The police department budget lists $36,400 for regular employees, which, in addition to Social Security contributions, Medicare, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation payments, amounts to $45,678 for personal services. Total police department expenses come to $63,568.

Other total expenses are $300 for government buildings, $2,749 for municipal court, $500 for a public defender, $500 for custody of prisoners, $6,500 for animal control, $52,812 for solid waste, $1,265 for parks and recreation and $350 for planning and zoning.

No money is budgeted for cemetery maintenance and repairs.

Penson said she experienced difficulty in formulating a budget due to prior budgets being imprecise and having incorrect entries. She cited one example relating to Kingston’s 2012 sale of a garbage truck that netted $70,000 in revenue. The $70,000 amount was listed as revenue for more than one year.

“They used it at least two years as revenue, which it should have been used only one year as revenue. They put down the cop car as revenue too. We’re paying for it and it is collateral, or whatever, but it’s not revenue. ... It was a big mess,” she said.

With the 2014 budget out, Penson said she was relieved.

“I feel good about it. Like I say, I feel bad because it’s already July. ... I mean, I thought I could get this done in a month or two, but it was so hard. I would be down here until 11 or 12 o’clock at night trying to work on this by myself,” she said. “A couple of council members said they would help. I said, ‘OK, come on.’ It feels good just to have that off of me. Hopefully I can go by this and get 2015’s done in November, or no later than December. I want it done before 2015, that’s for sure.”