The Claxton City Council failed to address the fact that the budget the council voted to approve two weeks ago is not binding.
AllOnGeorgia reported on June 4th that the city council failed to legally approve their budget after voting to approve the FY 2020 with an enabling resolution or by ordinance, as required by law. [See OCGA 36-81-5(c)]. A simple vote by Council does not meet the legal requirements for the budget to be binding or to take effect. The same legal hurdle was among those the City of Claxton faced at the same time last year, but no additional precautions were made public as to how the city sought to avoid errors from 2018.
Though the Council was made aware of the issue on June 4, the proposed meeting agenda for the June 17th meeting did not have a line item to resolve the issue and no motion was made by council members to amend the agenda to address the implementation. The budget is supposed to take effect on July 1, 2019 and council will not meet again before July 1 unless there is a special-called meeting.
The City also failed to update the official website with the most recent year’s budget. The document on the website still reflects the FY 2018 budget and FY 2019, meaning the FY 2020 budget was not advertised in accordance with what is expected to be made publicly available. The city is required to make the budget publicly available in city hall and notify residents that such document is available for review, and when, by announcement in the county legal organ. All of this information is available in the Georgia Municipal Associations ‘A Budget Guide for Municipalities’ document, an organization the City of Claxton pays annual dues to have as a resource.
Failure to legally adopt a budget prevents the city from being eligible to apply for state and federal grants.
The Council also has the looming issue of the money it sends to the Claxton-Evans Chamber of Commerce on an annual basis, which is a violation of the state constitution’s gratuities clause – which prohibits the donation of tax dollars to private entities – and a violation of state law. At a previous budget hearing, Mayor Terry Branch, who is serving as the interim city administrator, said the council could resolve that ‘if they wanted to’ after the budget was approved.
Branch was absent from the meeting Monday.