Over the summer the Dublin City Council took a tour of the city to learn about the various projects that are in the works or needed. Following that tour, the council began budget meetings for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Visiting various locations around town, the council heard from city manager Nancy Wooldridge, public works director Cory James and other department heads. While some of the major stops included the city's wastewater treatment facility, the Dublin City Park and the airport, others like the Dublin EMS building and the land the city is considering for annexation were also on the tour.
The tour was eye-opening for council members who were surprised to learn about the various projects. The council was shown where the on-call EMTs stay and where the city hopes to have an office one day. City officials told council members the plans for the office weren't in the works for the current budget, but there are hopes for the future.
Another hope from the EMS department was a new ambulance, but that was one of the items that had to be cut from the budget.
"The council had to take a hard look at some things," said Wooldridge. "We took money from departments with a little extra and gave it to departments with not enough and had to cut out some of the new purchase items in order to make the budget work with the tax rate decrease the council is trying to give residents."
City officials said the EMS department is a perfect example of something the city's other departments are doing to keep the budget balanced. Instead of purchasing a new ambulance, the department will take part of the funds they planned to use and pay for parts and labor to make the old ambulance workable. This will be done in several city departments to help trim the budget.
"We do the best we can with what we've got," said city secretary Rhonda Williams. "We're working with some great staffers and pretty good equipment. We just need to do some repairs and updates to make it work."
Wooldrigde said the estimated revenue from the proposed tax rate, which is approximately $1.9 million, match almost exactly to the estimated expenditures for the next year, leaving the city with a "balanced" budget. With so little room for adjustments, the council didn't believe purchasing new equipment would fit in this year's budget.
"It's a very tight budget," Wooldridge said. "If there was any excess in a department, we cut it. It's tight but a very livable budget. If all our departments can work together and we can all stay focused on the goal, I don't foresee any issues."
At the last regular council meeting, Wooldridge presented a suggested tax rate of $1.1979, up slightly from last year. She said the proposed rate and budget would get the city through the following fiscal year. However, some council members expressed concern over the rate during workshop meetings and the rate was adjusted.
"I feel like everything we've done to bring this budget balanced will benefit the people of this community," Leatherwood said. "We understand not everything was done the way everyone would like, but we did the very best we could."
Wooldridge and Leatherwood said the council fine-tuned the budget to try and balance it without raising taxes. And they were able to lower taxes for the city's residents. Wooldridge said the council worked hard to drop the city's tax rate to $1.1364 per $100 property evaluation.
There have been two public hearings regarding the tax rate and two more regarding the upcoming budget. Now, with those meetings and workshops drawing to a close, the Dublin City Council will hold a meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, at 6:30 p.m. to approve the tax rate and budget for the next year.