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Rincon approves budget
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With several large projects ahead, the Rincon City Council has approved its budgets for the 2012 fiscal year.

The total budget, including general fund, special purpose local option sales tax and other funds, is $15.53 million, a $400,000 increase over the current fiscal year, according to city finance director Wesley Corbitt.

The city’s general fund budget is $5.2 million, up from $3.7 million for the current budget.

“It’s all in capital projects,” Corbitt said.

The city also plans to use from $2.5 million-$3 million out of its reserves to complete widening of Fort Howard Road and water and sewer projects. The city is ticketing $1.3 million for Fort Howard Road construction and another $500,000 for recreation capital projects.

Also on the books is $840,000 in work at Macomber Park and Patriots Park. The city plans to finish the pavilion at Patriots Park and finish phase 1 of Macomber, while continuing the expansion of field No. 4.

“We’ve got a lot of capital projects to do, and we’ve been saving up to do them,” said council member Ken Baxley. “We’re going to spend more than we take in, but we have it in the bank to spend it.”

Plans for Macomber Park include four new fields, as part of the property the city acquired when it purchased the Lions Club building. Phase 1 will include utilities, drainage and paving and is expected to be completed by May 2012. The new fields could be ready for play as early as spring 2013. The total cost for upgrades at Macomber Park is pegged at $1.8 million.

The fire department budget includes a new rescue truck/engine at a cost of $600,000, with $370,000 coming from the 2012 fire fund and the remainder coming from the general fund. The amount paid from the general fund will be paid back with SPLOST receipts over the next four years.

Expected general fund revenues for 2012 are $3.2 million, up from $2.1 million for FY11. The city will carry forward $1.45 million to augment its projected general fund revenues, which also included fines and fees.

SPLOST is expected to bring in $950,000, down from just over $1 million for FY11. With nearly $1.9 million in SPLOST funds carried over from FY11 to FY12, the city is projecting to have a SPLOST budget of $2.8 million.

What the city won’t have again is a property tax. Council members set the millage rate at 0, where it has been since 1998.

“And we’ll still do these projects and still continue operations in the city,” said council member Paul Wendelken.
Council member Levi Scott also praised the council’s efforts and keeping the city’s property tax rate at 0.

“It took a while to get to zero, but they’ve done a good job at overseeing costs and expenditures,” he said. “We’ve been able to keep employees and not have layoffs. We’ve been real fortunate. It’s been kinda rough; we didn’t do raises. Our employees, we know they think it’s hard.”

The city also got a check for $781,400, the first installment from Effingham County as part of the service delivery strategy agreement. That money will go toward the Fort Howard Road improvements.

As part of the agreement worked out between the cities and the county, the county will pay the city $2.3 million over the next three years. The money is coming out of the county’s reserves, which, Corbitt explained, were built up over the years through county property taxes assessed to Rincon residents.

“And citizens of Rincon won’t be double taxed for a duplication of services,” Baxley said of the service delivery solution.

The county owed money to its general fund after subsidizing its water and sewer operations, Rincon city attorney Raymond Dickey said, a service not utilized by city residents.

“They would have to pay that back with interest,” he said.

Doing so, however, could lead to higher property taxes, Corbitt explained, so the cities and the county came to a compromise.

“They had a debt service agreement that would have been difficult to meet without raising taxes,” Corbitt said.