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Richmond Hill OKs 2009 budget
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The Richmond Hill City Council approved the 2009 budget at its regular meeting on Dec. 3.

City finance director Bob Whitmarsh said the $18.2 million total may fluctuate since the figure reflects nearly $6.5 million for the completion of the City Conference Center.

"The City Center will most likely take 18 months to complete, which would carry some of the expenditures into the 2010 budget," Whitmarsh said. "It depends on the pace of construction and when financing comes about. We just wanted to be financially prepared if everything happens on a fast track."

The figure for the City Center is higher than last month’s $4.8 million dollar bid from J.T. Turner Construction because expenditures beyond construction are included, such as road paving.

Whitmarsh said department heads have slimmed down their 2009 individual budgets in anticipation of slower revenue, due to decreased building and development expected for the coming year.

To help balance the general fund, there will be an increase in garbage collection and building fees. The current monthly garbage pick-up rates are $6.75 residential and $10.96 commercial. Starting in January, the rates will be $11 residential and $15 commercial. City Manager Mike Melton said the proposed garbage rates would still be very low, in comparison to neighboring cities. He said the city has not raised the rates for over a decade.

To the same effect, Planning and Zoning Director Steve Scholar said the higher building, inspection and plan review fees for 2009 will still be lower in comparison to neighboring communities. He said the increased amounts would equal about half of the county’s current rates and less than half of what Liberty County is charging for the same services.

The city budget is broken up into six components. Here areprojected 2009 expenditures:

- General fund $7,300,000; this includes all city departments from parks to public safety. It includes a wide variety of expenses including salaries of city employees, maintenance and utilities of city facilities and maintenance of city vehicles. Whitmarsh said unpredictable fuel costs may cause this figure to fluctuate.

- Water and sewer $3,100,000; includes the OMI contract, expenses of wastewater treatment plant and equipment. Whitmarsh said the amount is slightly lower than last year due to fewer taps "in anticipation of a below-average year for new construction."

- Capital improvements $1,236,400; includes revenue from SPLOST and grants to fund projects such as equipment for cleaning ditches and street maintenance, a replacement van for prisoners that are contracted for city clean-up, $75,000 to attain engineering estimates on a replacement fire station on Hwy. 144, and $79,500 for park improvements such as a maintenance shed inside J.F. Gregory Park and improvements to Boles Community Park and the RHRA skate park.

- Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) $167,175; funds set aside for the group to advertise and market the city.

- Conference center fund $6,409,365; funds set aside for the construction and enhancement of the upcoming facility. Whitmarsh said this includes "a combination of ours and borrowed money" it would take to complete the project in 2009.

- Confiscated assets $15,000; based on money seized by the Richmond Hill Police Department, to be spent on RHPD equipment. Whitmarsh said this figure reflects the current account balance, which will change if more funds are seized throughout the year.

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