Baldwin approves CAO contract, FY 2025 budget

The Baldwin City Council approved its FY 2025 budget and the CAO contract during Monday, June 10 meeting. (Jerry Neace/

The Baldwin City Council approved the city’s 2025 and the Chief Administrative Officer’s (CAO) employment contract during Monday’s council meeting.

However, neither vote was unanimous.

CAO contract

The CAO contract was the first item for approval. The council did not discuss the contract having discussed it at length in prior meetings. Mayor Stephanie Almagno asked for a motion to approve the contract as presented. Council member Alice Venter made the motion and was seconded by Council member Erik Keith. The vote was 4-1 with Council member Joseph Satterfield the dissenting vote.

The CAO contract is for one year. It includes a 10% salary increase, a cash equivalent for paid time off of $6,000, and a 2.5% cost of living adjustment. The new annual salary will increase 18.66% from $104,000 to $123,410 after all increases are added in.

FY 2025 budget

The city’s FY 2025 general fund budget was approved for $4,027,572. To achieve a balanced general fund budget, the city will raise property taxes by 1.11 mils or $195,000. The city will also have to use $466,883 in allocations from the water and sewer fund.

The general fund for FY 2025 increased by nearly 12% or $427,517 over the current year’s budget.

Council member Maarten Venter asked, “So there is no way to avoid a millage rate increase on this?” Chief Administrative Officer Emily Woodmaster replied, “Not without cutting something.”

Councilwoman Venter explained that the budget had already cut personnel, vehicles, and equipment.

Baldwin citizen Cindy Lifsey stated to the council, “There’s got to be something that can be cut out of this budget because not everybody has a $210 tax bill.” She added, “Government needs to be responsible to its citizens, not to itself.”

Lifsey told the council that budgets are set by assessed values and millage rates. She warned that the current rate of property assessments will not continue. “”Our assessed values, our fair market values are really high but that isn’t going to last forever,” she said.

Venter and Lifsey both exchanged frustrations over the budget. Councilwoman Venter said, “Please, I am begging you, go through the information that we have given you. We’re literally asking you what do you want us to cut?” She added, ”You’re our boss. Tell us what you want us to cut.”

Almagno asked for a motion to adopt and approve the FY 2025 budget as presented. Councilwoman Venter made the motion and was seconded by Council member Erik Keith. The vote to approve the FY 2025 budget was 3-2 with Satterfield and Councilman Venter dissenting.

Special election

Last week, Satterfield announced his resignation from the City Council effective July 29. The city attorney prepared a resolution to move forward with a special election for the Post 2 seat for this November. Almagno told the council that this had to be completed and submitted to the Habersham County Election Superintendent prior to August 1 to make the deadline for November.

The council voted 4-0-1 to approve the resolution for the special election for November. Satterfield abstained from voting.

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