Vidalia Levies Millage Rate
The Vidalia City Council levied the millage rate for individuals within the city limits in Montgomery and Toombs Counties at a called meeting on Friday morning, September 23. This new millage rate is set at 4.160 for the city rate and 14.852 for the school rate in both counties and is the lowest the rate has been since 1998. Yet, because of inflation decreasing the rollback rate, this rate is considered an increase due to the adopted rate being higher than the rollback. Last year, the millage rate was set at the same rate as this year, with the exception of citizens within the city in Montgomery County, who had a 3.602 millage rate. City officials say this difference in rate is a small, but necessary, change in order to fund the upcoming budget. “The difference, from the collection standpoint, between the rollback rate and leaving the rate the same as last year, is $58,667. The amount of money we are discussing in total if we don’t take that rollback is less than 2% of our current general fund balance, and the total increase of collections accounts for half a percent of next year’s budget,” Mayor Doug Roper explained. Roper stated that the increase in taxes would result in an extra $5.68 for individuals within Toombs County with a home value of $100,000, while the increase for citizens within Montgomery County with a home of similar value would total $22.96.
According to city administration, this increase in funds will be used to increase police salaries in attempts to make the police department more competitive with surrounding law enforcement agencies. “Our intended use is to increase the pay for our police officers,” Roper said. “Last year’s police budget was $3,171,700, but for the first time, we have budgeted for overtime.”
The budgeted overtime totals $70,000 for the 2023 fiscal year. Currently, overtime for these officers has accounted for $75,000 within this fiscal year because of a shortage of officers. “Even with our unfilled positions, which totals 11, the department Is on track to spend nearly all of its 2022 budget,” he remarked.
He continued, “Our desire is to increase our officer pay without freezing or eliminating positions, as our base pay is one of the key components to getting our department back to being fully staffed.”
The administration informed citizens that this pay would be only one component of a comprehensive plan, which is being developed by Police Chief James Jermon, to recruit employees to the department.
During the mandated tax hearings on Thursday, September 21, citizens were able to hold an open dialogue with members of the city administration about their concerns with the raised taxes. Many voiced their support for an increase in pay for officers, but questioned why the money could not come from other funds, such as the money received through federal grants. City Clerk Amy Murray responded to these concerns and informed citizens that many of these grants are limited in what the funds may be used for, making it impossible to transfer them to the police department funds. “This past year, we did not budget the police fund for the issues we are seeing,” Murray emphasized. “We are trying to make sure we are prepared.” Roper concluded, “We do not know what our economy is going to look like next year. Most economic polls are predicting a recession. So we have to do something to ensure that our situation is going to improve.”
City Council members Loyd Mobley, Jennifer Evans, and John Raymond Turner also attended the hearings and added their support of the change to improve police officer salaries. They also thanked the public for their input, and welcomed conversations with citizens to work together for the good of the City.