Mayor Doug Hollberg said that at the Monday night National Association for the Advancement of Colored People meeting called to discuss the yard-waste plan, there was a 50-50 split between supporters of the fee-based system and supporters of simply raising the monthly fee for everyone. Commissioner Rodney McCord said he was in favor of the fee-based system but acknowledged the possibility it would lead to illegal dumping in empty lots, while Commissioner Cynthia Reid Ward said that simply raising the fee on everyone, including those who rarely use the service, would ignite widespread anger.
Commissioner Bill Landrum said his constituents supported raising the rates rather than enacting a fee-based system - even those who supported a fee-based system on principle feared being buried in other people’s yard waste. Vice Chairman Dick Morrow, the primary supporter of the fee-based system, said that he might be willing to support a rate increase.
After a brief discussion on the merits of privatizing the yard-waste collection apparatus, it was ultimately decided to hold a straw-poll vote in the evening so that City Manager Kenny Smith would have something to put in next year’s budget.
At the evening meeting, the commissioners decided to increase the fees across the board from $3.20 per month to $6.50 per month, with no mandatory bagging. This is not the final vote - the commissioners will have a chance to vote up or down on the plan when the budget is voted on at the May 13 meeting.
“We are very close and it’s going to be possible to give you a balanced budget without fee increases and tax increases,” Smith said.
However, he said this won’t be easy. He said employee health insurance cost increases can be avoided if there’s a $500 deductible, which does not apply to co-pay for doctor’s visits.
“We feel this is a very good compromise,” Smith said.
He also said vigorous negotiation with the insurance companies has prevented an increase in the cost of employee dental insurance.
However, Smith warned of a $4.5 million to $5 million decline in general fund revenue due to a decline in tax revenue, permits and fees and charges and services. He also said fuel prices have gone up 55 percent. Due to the drought and reduced industrial usage, water revenue is down too.
Smith asked the commissioners for direction and how much detail they wanted on the budget. Smith said there would be no job cuts but also said there would be no cost-of-living wage increases.
John J. Funny from Grice and Associates also presented the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, which he had presented earlier to the Spalding County Board of Commissioners. The complete plan is available at the Spalding County Web site and there will be an open house celebrating the completion of the plan from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Spalding County Courthouse Annex.
The next meeting of the Griffin Board of Commissioners will be on May 13, although there will be a workshop at 9 a.m. on May 6 to discuss the budget.