The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 1, 2012

City's revenues up, expenses down

— With revenues up and expenses down in the first six months of the fiscal year, leaders with the city of Athens painted a positive financial picture Monday.

Annette Barnes, finance director for the city, told Mayor Ronnie Marks and members of the City Council during a work session that the city’s general fund revenues versus budget at the halfway mark of March 31 represented a difference of roughly $480,000 to the positive.

The city’s total revenues through six months were $12.5 million, though the budget over the same period was $11.9 million. Projected annual revenue is estimated to be $23.2 million.

Barnes attributed the gains to a strengthening economy, as $356,000 of the $480,000 is in sales taxes. Of that amount, however, $178,000 will go to Athens City Schools.

Property taxes are also up about $17,000, an increase of $13,000 over the same period last year. Like sales taxes, half the city’s ad valorem taxes benefit local schools.

Barnes said the city’s lodging tax of $1 per room, per night, brought in an additional $26,000 more than the same period last year. The fee went into effect in January 2011.

Council President Jimmy Gill said he asked one hotel manager if anyone had complained about the lodging tax, but received a surprising answer.

“She said the only person complaining were the people who live here,” he said. “I don’t know why because they’re at home anyway.”

The only negative tax revenue that was less was the city’s cigarette tax, down about $15,000 over the same period last year, meaning fewer people are buying cigarettes. She said the city’s alcohol tax revenue is up, however, about 2 percent over last year.

Marks said despite the positive news, city leaders are concerned about how Athens and the school system will be affected by changes in how TVA-in-lieu-of-tax money is distributed. The way the bill is currently structured in the Alabama Legislature, about $78,000 could be cut from the school system this year and $148,000 next year, he said.

The TVA-in-lieu-of-tax funds is partially represented in the “intergovernmental” category of the city’s budget, which was $48,000 below budget at midyear. The city receives $138,000 per month and the amount is reconciled at the end of each fiscal year.

“We have no control over the TVA dollar figure, and we’ve budgeted the best way we can,” Marks said. “We hope that it will start coming back up.”

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