Commissioners finalize nearly $80 million budget - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Commissioners finalize nearly $80 million budget

June 7, 2005

Albany-- City commissioners voted on three items that would effect nearly $1.4 million in next year's budget, and moved around funds to help create new programs and save some that were headed for the chopping block.

Still, finance officials say they are confident that commissioners will adopt the spending plan on time.

Commissioners agreed to allocate just over a million dollars for information technology. The remainder of the money will be used for the parks and recreation department and the formation of a community improvement task force.

"Right now I'm pretty happy with where we are in the budget process. My job now is to come back and incorporate those changes that they have given us into the final document," says chief financial officer Shirley Smith.

The final budget must be adopted by June 29th. Budget changes mean good news for some East Albany residents and their children. Commissioners have reallocated money to keep one of the oldest recreational facilities open next year.

It may not be the fanciest and most state-of-the-art facility, but Thornton Gym means a lot to the people of East Albany. City officials have recognized that and now say it will remain open.

Thornton Gym has been packed with Albany youth since school let out. "It has everything like basketball hoops and you can play games," says La'keit Randall.

Parents also say it's one of the few safe places where their children can play free of cost during the summer. "I felt like it should stay open because they do need something on the east side for the kids to do, so I feel like it needs to stay open. I'm glad to know that they're keeping it open," says Tomeka Williams.

"I'm just happy to keep my program up and running to serve the citizens of Albany," says parks and recreation director Kenneth Williams.

After being challenged to cut costs by 10%, parks and recreation director suggested shutting down the gym to keep the city's six other facilities open, a decision he says was hard to make. "We run one of the biggest youth basketball programs in that area, and also one of the largest summer programs, so it's a real good program in the community," Kenneth Williams says.

But most commissioners were opposed to closing the doors on east Albany youth and asked finance officials to find the money to keep it running.

"The general fund was paying for the debt payment for the street sweeping division. Now, that it's an enterprise fund we no longer have to pay their share for their equipment, so that's going to save us about $100,000 in the general fund," says chief financial officer Shirley Smith. A savings that will be budgeted to help offset the nearly $120,000 operational cost of keeping Thornton Gym open. "The additional $20,000 is probably going to come from of those savings that we had in unobligated funds," Smith says.

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