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January 18--  Even though some sales tax revenue was down last year, the City of Vidalia ended the year with a surplus and expects more of the same in 2017.

According to city Finance Director Bill Bedingfield, "Revenue was pretty good.  It's not where we've been in the past.  We saw some downturn in local option sales tax and a little bit in the title ad valorem tax that people pay now on automobiles.  We saw that down a little bit from the prior year, but we knew that was going to happen sooner or later, but for the most part revenues have been pretty stable."

Local option sales tax collections were down about two percent last year and the transportation sales tax was down nearly the same percentage, however, Bedingfield says it's been a boon for the city.

"The T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Sales Tax) has been a tremendous help.  The projects we're doing now, Airport Road, Mose Coleman, Michael Collins and we completed Adams Street, that money has been fantastic to help us with those projects," he said.

Sales taxes are a key component of construction work in the city and the Finance Director notes that's help keep city property taxes low for the past 24 years.

"No property taxes have been used for any of these projects we talk about.  For example, the Pal Theater renovation, building the Amphitheater at City Park and the road projects are coming from sales tax revenue that's coming into our community from people who come here to shop, none of it is property tax," he said.

This year's general fund budget of $8.5 million is essentially the same as last year's and Bedingfield is confident about the city's financial condition.

"We're solid.  We came in under budget and we have a fund balance.  We're looking to have one again this year.  We presented a balanced budget to the council for 2017.  We don't have a lot of room in it and we feel confident we'll bring it in under budget and end the year with a solid fund balance.  That depends on if revenues continue to come in like they are.  We don't forecast revenues above the prior years," he said.

A bright spot is the more than 20% increase in hotel/motel taxes in 2016.  The tax rate increased from five to eight percent and brought in more than $365,000 to the city treasury, an increase of more than $70,000.