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Shaheen Balances Budget, Cutting and Adding Expenses | News

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Shaheen Balances Budget, Cutting and Adding Expenses
News

Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen presented a revised draft of his 2013 budget to council Monday night. 

It's now balanced, with cuts in some departments and additional spending in others.

The mayor and some council members talked about the finer points of the roughly $36 million plan that would take affect July 1st, if approved by council.

When Mayor Chuck Shaheen gave council the first draft of his budget in late May, it came up about $1.2 million short. He asked city department leaders to search for spots to cut expenses.

Shaheen said, "Not even one of them said no I can't."

The police and fire departments trimmed a combined $85,000, finding other funding sources for some expenses and making staff adjustments.

Public Works cut $72,000 in equipment, but Shaheen says that equipment will now be paid for with money from the 2012 SPLOST.

Shaheen says the city will use $591,000 in surplus money from the current year's budget to cover the coming year's costs, in addition to other cost-savings measures.

He said, "In a nutshell, we did it without raising taxes."

Shaheen also added expenses to his second draft. Those include $30,000 budgeted to pay a lobbyist to work for Warner Robins interests at the state capitol, $12,500 to pay the current Redevelopment Director to take on additional economic development duties, and $43,000 to create a new public relations position on the mayor's staff.

Shaheen said, "I'm always going to be the spokesperson for the City of Warner Robins, but it's nice to have someone that helps get information to another generation that doesn't read the paper anymore."

Council members Mike Brashear and Mike Daley said they are undecided on the need for a public relations position. Daley said there are two support positions already on the mayor's staff.

Daley said, "I think we are all concerned about the best use of manpower, and people that we have around us. Is there anybody around us that could also do that position?"

Mike Brashear said the council needs to sit down and discuss the responsibilities of the job descriptions. He said, "Is it something we need to do right now or sometime in the future?"

Council has not talked about the budget as a group yet, but say they plan to ahead of the second public hearing scheduled for June 18th.

The first public hearing was held Monday. One citizen spoke, asking detailed questions about the first draft of the budget. The second draft had not been posted on the city's website, as of Monday night.

Brashear said, "There's still a lot of little things we will go back and talk about." He said overall, the budget looks "pretty good."

Mike Daley agreed saying, "I would say we are 90-percent there."

Shaheen says he wants to pay a lobbyist to promote Warner Robins' interests at the state capitol and acquire more state funding for local projects.

His examples of how a lobbyist could help the city included convincing the Georgia Department of Transportation to add more railroad crossings and getting state funds for better access to Robins Air Force Base.

State law requires a vote on the budget by the end of June.

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