News Courier: The city’s most recent financial audit was released last week in a special session. City leadership says the audit paints a positive financial picture. As mayor, what will you do to ensure the city remains on sound financial footing, despite continued economic uncertainties?
Ronnie Marks: One of the most critical charges that the mayor has is to present a balanced budget to the City Council for approval. Since 2004, the mayor, finance directors and department administrators have always taken the position to present a very conservative budget to the City Council for approval.
We have not taken the position to “front load” any of the budgets with expenditures or capital requests that are not critical. Since 2004, the city of Athens has ended each fiscal year with revenues over expenditures. This allows the mayor and council to look at critical issues at year’s end. For example, in 2011, the general fund budget ended the fiscal year with a positive $1.1 million revenue versus expenses, before budget adjustments and critical capital appropriations. During this year, we appropriated an additional $500,000 to paving projects throughout the city.
The current fiscal year, 2012 general fund budget is approximately $1 million revenues over expenditures. An increase in sales tax accounts for approximately $830,000 (split 50/50 with Athens City School system) and an increase in license and permits of approximately $140,000. Again, this will allow the mayor and City Council to allocate funds to critical issues at years end.
In summary we do not pass budgets with “fluff,” and continue to examine several years of data prior to presenting any budget to the City Council. We will continue to follow this successful trend.
NC: The city and county have worked together to land new industries over the last two years, while providing an atmosphere that allows existing industries to expand. What specific plans do you have to keep Athens on the radar of any industry or business?
Marks: As mayor, we will continue the “team” approach atmosphere. The city of Athens, the Limestone County Commission, the Limestone County Economic Development, along with the state of Alabama Economic Development is very pro-industry and retail development. The city, county, economic development (state and local) recently landed Carpenter Technology to this area with a $500 million investment. Our team has been very involved in assisting Steelcase, Custom Polymers, Federal Mogul, Turner Medical and other retail establishments to locate to this area and we will continue to provide the workforce development and create incentives to attract jobs. Public safety and jobs are our highest priorities.