City Manager John Bennett said health care costs also are expected to rise 6.4 percent, but no property tax hike is proposed.
“Our general fund revenues and transfers-in are projected at 2.6 percent over the original 2012 budget,” he said. “But that’s only $100,000 over what we actually received.”
Finance Director Sherri Shore noted that revenues are still tracking below the city’s 2007 income.
A first draft of the proposed budget was unveiled last week at a finance committee meeting that was attended by seven of the nine City Commissioners.
The document is scheduled to be presented to the full board at its Nov. 26 meeting, for review only. The finance committee is slated to go over it again at a Nov. 28 session.
Plans are for the City Commission to hold a first reading and public hearing at its Dec. 10 meeting, and adopt it before the end of the year.
The merit raise amount awarded to each employee would be based on an annual evaluation.
Bennett said police officers also would get $500 each — part of a $1,000 bonus promised in 2008 but halted after the first half-payment when the Great Recession hit.
“This is the first year we’re doing something other than just bare-bones,” he said.
Local governments are in an escalating competition for certified police officers, primarily because training is costly. Starting pay in Rome ranges from $28,000 to $30,000 compared to $31,000 to $33,000 in other areas, Bennett said, but the benefit package is good.
“We don’t have a high turnover rate,” he said. “Some even come back … because it’s a better work environment, better opportunities for promotion. We’re not hurting, but we need to be keeping up.”
Raising the starting pay is not the simple solution it seems, though, because it could result in newer employees earning more than some older employees.
The city also is losing trained water treatment plant specialists to Bartow and other counties, Bennett noted.
Rome maintains 17 other budgets in addition to its general fund. The largest is the $29.3 million water and sewer budget, which is user-funded.
Smaller budgets include the fire fund, landfill, transit, workers compensation and the Stonebridge Golf Course fund.
Commissioner Bill Collins noted that replacing the greens at the golf course is paying off with more revenue. The city typically budgets a $600,000 transfer from the general fund as debt service on the golf course purchase, but only $520,000 is expected to be needed in 2013.