The council voted 4-2, with councilmembers Liz Baxter and Chris Casdia opposing, to approve the $30.7 million budget, up from the present budget of $27.5 million.
The budget for the fiscal year beginning in July was initially set to absorb half of the 4.76 percent decline in its property tax digest.
However, the council decided to approve the budget with the intention of raising its current millage rate of 7.29 mills to the “revenue neutral” millage rate of 7.862 mills.
State revenue rollback calculation allows the city to raise its rate to any point below the revenue neutral rate to be recognized as a revenue tax decrease.
Under the present budget, a house valued at $200,000, with the standard $5,000 exemption pays about $545 in city property taxes under the current rate.
Chief Financial Officer Robert Porche said the overall budget went up due to an additional $3 million needed in the water and sewer fund.
Porche said the city is expecting $1.09 million in bond proceeds it can use to make upgrades to its grit chamber and filter at the waste water treatment plant.
It’s also budgeting for an across-the-board 3 percent wholesale rate increase, which the city is passing along from Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority.
Cobb implemented a program that has an 8 percent rate increase effective each Jan. 1.
The city is proposing the 3 percent increase to keep up with the wholesale rates and to eliminate its cost adjustment charge structure for water and sewer customers.
It’s also using $350,000 in reserves to fund water well exploration.
The average homeowner who saw its property values decline would see no change in its upcoming property tax bill as the increase would offset the decline in the digest, Porche said.
The council decided to move forward with the revenue neutral rate to use $101,571 to pay off police department software, $60,000 to install the hardware to prepare for fiber connectivity throughout the city and $40,049 in streets repairs.
Those changes increased the city’s general fund budget to $15.3 million, up slightly from the current $15.2 million.
During the meeting, Casdia said he “personally (doesn’t) see the need to raise the millage rate” to pay off the debt for the software and make upgrades to the city’s connectivity.
Casdia on Tuesday said he thought the overall budget was fine, but felt like the three additions could have been paid for out of contingency funds the city budgeted.
He said the city is seeing increased building permits and sales tax revenue, which he said could bring in increased dollars into the city’s coffers.
“It’s my firm belief that the revenues will be higher anyway,” he said.
Council member Randy Brewer noted the city had been putting off installing the hardware necessary to make the upgrades for years and it was time to act.
Baxter said she felt like more cuts could have been made without hurting public safety or other city employees and services.
For example, Baxter noted she felt more cuts could be made to the mayor and council’s portion of the budget.
“There are more cuts that can be made that haven’t been made yet without interfering with services,” she added.
Council member Tessa Basford disagreed, adding many departments could produce a long list of items they had already eliminated from their proposed budgets before the final draft coming to council.
The budget includes no salary increases, layoffs or furloughs for the city’s roughly 200 employees.
Other proposed funds include the water and sewer fund at $9.5 million; $1.5 million for the stormwater fund; $222,125 in hotel/motel tax proceeds; $436,595 in its tax allocation district fund; $585,000 in capital equipment fund; $300,000 in impact fees; $32,555 in its SPLOST II; $555,599 in its SPLOST III account; and $2.5 million in its SPLOST IV account.
The council also directed staff to proceed with researching and reporting back what it would take for the city to change its fiscal year to begin on Sept. 30 and end on Oct. 1.
If the city moves forward, the city would prepare a three-month budget between June 30, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2013, and then prepare a fiscal year 2014 budget to begin Sept. 30.
Along with the city of Canton, Cherokee County’s fiscal year will begin on Sept. 30.
The county changed its fiscal year last year after operating on a calendar year budget.
The Woodstock City Council also:
* Recognized Kimberly Mathews, who helped save the life of a CW Matthews employee on June 1 after he was hit while working in the construction zone along Interstate 575 at the new Ridgewalk Parkway interchange;
* Recognized employees for achieving five and 20 year milestones with the city: Brittany Duncan, Assistant Police Chief Bart Giesey, David Whitley and Crystal Welch for five years; Jeff Dupree, Assistant Fire Chief Jimmy Eley and Tim Smith for 20 years;
* Recognized Lauren Case and Hannah Martin, who will be trying out for the Olympics Swim Team Trials;
* Approved a contract with Government Tax Solutions to collect delinquent property taxes;
* Discussed topics for the August 2012 Towne Hall meeting;
* Approved fiscal year 2012 budget amendments
* Approved opting into a class action settlement regarding hotel/motel taxes. Once the city opts in, the court will then distribute revenue based on the amount of taxes hotels in Woodstock pay.