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Avondale Estates City Commission discusses 2023 capital budget

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Avondale Estates City Commission discusses 2023 capital budget

Avondale Estates City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission, at its Oct. 26 work session, discussed the city’s 2023 proposed capital budget.

The city has established a three-year capital program for 2022, 2023 and 2024.

The program will close in 2024 because the city hasn’t identified any additional capital projects outside the current projects that are being worked on.

“Any future capital work that we undertake will either be incorporated into the existing program or will allow us to extend the program out an additional year or years,” City Manager Patrick Bryant said.

There are five buckets of money the city uses to direct funding toward capital projects – the Urban Redevelopment Agency, American Rescue Plan funding, special purpose local option sales tax funding, the stormwater fund, and the capital fund.

In the draft capital budget, the URA column is the bond anticipation note.

“After we conclude the $106,000 remaining payment to Reeves Young for the Town Green, and the fees associated with the issuance of the BAN maturity extension, we will have approximately $660,000 remaining in the BAN, which we can draw down to spend one of three items — the Town Green, stormwater within the downtown or street grid within the downtown,” Bryant said.

The city has identified a paving project that could use BAN funding, which is paving Franklin Street from Olive to Oak. The project would include a stormwater solution as well.

“We anticipate spending an additional $440,000 out of the BAN and then closing out with $220,000 remaining, unless we come up with another project which we can expend those funds for,” Bryant said.

Avondale Estates received about $1.18 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Bryant said the United States Department of Treasury has relaxed its guidelines on how municipalities can spend its APRA funding.

The projects anticipated to use ARPA funding are repaving Laredo Drive, repaving Pine Street and replacing stormwater pipe, repaving Parry Street, as well as general repaving of roads, sidewalks and curbs.

The budget also includes an estimate of $400,000 for redesigning the plazas in the city. Bryant said the amount budgeted is a placeholder and not the final cost of the project.

“We’ve discussed on multiple occasions the condition of the plazas on North Avondale Road, and we believe redesigning those plazas is something that is wise to do shortly after the bulk of construction on [U.S.] 278 so that our plazas match the look and feel of our new thoroughfare and the landscaping that goes with it,” Bryant said.

The city has until the end of 2025 to spend its APRA funding.

At the end of 2021, the stormwater fund balance was $914,000. The city anticipates contributing another $831,000 into the stormwater fund balance, giving the city about $1.7 million to use on capital projects in 2023 and 2024.

Funding for stormwater goes toward the city’s stormwater priority projects that are identified in the stormwater master plan. The capital budget includes $1.6 million in expenses for the North Woods project, the hydrologic model, the stormwater project at Washington and Pine, Dunwick and the Kensington phase two project.

“That would allow us to complete the five priority projects as identified by Brown and Caldwell,” Bryant said.

In terms of SPLOST funding, the city will receive $929,000 by the end of the year, and expects to receive another $750,000 in SPLOST revenue through its end date, which is March 2024, he said.

SPLOST funding can go toward public safety vehicles and equipment, public works equipment and infrastructure, and paving.

“We also have the Pine Street railroad parking gravel lot. It’s basically the establishment of additional parking at the rear of the [central business district], or the north end of the CBD, where currently no parking really exists,” Bryant said. “The other allocation of the general repaving roads, sidewalk, curb project is from the SPLOST funds. We anticipate the entirety of the project at $1.2 million of sidewalk, road and curb work.”

SPLOST expenses also include purchasing nine public safety vehicles, settling a condemnation lawsuit at 143 Maple Street, and a request for proposals for a camera system to be placed at the Town Green, city hall and the public works facility.

If the board approves the proposed operating budget, about $2 million would be transferred from the unassigned fund balance to the capital fund.

“That allows the city to have a balance of $5.56 million at the beginning of 2023 for capital projects,” Bryant said.

The city anticipates receiving about $5 million in grant reimbursements for the U.S. 278 road diet project, increasing the capital fund revenue to $10.8 million.

Expenditures in the capital fund include $1.8 million to acquire right of way at 154 Olive Street to build out the Washington Street extension, $5 million for the U.S. 278 project, and $2 million going toward the construction and acquisition of right of way.

The city commission discussed the operating budget earlier in October. Some highlights of the 2022 and 2023 operating budgets include:

– Transferring $483,962 from the general fund to the capital fund at the end of 2022.

– The city will gain more revenue from the Downtown Development Authority than anticipated in the 2022 adopted budget due to the DDA purchasing land from the city to build a hotel and town homes. Revenue from the DDA also includes salary contributions for the personnel allocated to the DDA, and $780,000 the DDA approved for assisting with the market pavilion of the Town Green.

– The proposed 2023 budget anticipates seeing less revenue compared to 2022. In the 2022 projected budget, the city expects to receive $6.78 million in revenue. The 2023 projects the city receiving $5.289 million, although the 2023 proposed budget does reflect a balanced budget.

Bryant has said the budget is based on the items the city staff knows needs to be budgeted for and does not include other items the city commission could ask for.

– A 3% cost of living adjustment is proposed for city employees, but merit raises are not included in the budget.

“The reason being is that we need to rewrite our employee policy manual,” Bryant said at the Oct. 12 city commission meeting. “Our current method of evaluating employees and assigning merit increases to them is way too subjective and varies greatly from department to department. Before we get back to doing merit raises, I think we need to standardize that process a lot more, make it equitable and fair. In lieu of that, I’ve proposed that additional 3% COLA.”

– There are a couple of placeholders in the budget for staff positions, including the finance director and finance officer, which the city is currently hiring for.

“We’ve also now incorporated a couple of salary increases for staff that were made in the past year, and reclassified a salary that was mis-allocated to a department,” Bryant said.

The greenspace manager was classified to the public works department, but has been reclassified to greenspace. The only other move that’s anticipated in the budget is converting the part-time police officer position to a full-time position. No other additional positions are contemplated in the budget

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher encouraged the city to take a deep dive into its operating budget to make sure the city is tightening its belt where appropriate.

“I say that because I feel like we are heading into a recessionary period where inflation has been gutting a lot of people and communities, and we are starting to see with rising interest rates and other things that we’re going to enter a period where less revenue is going to be collected,” Fisher said.

To view the budget documents, click here.

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