Imker: Informal PTC budget hearing set

Mark Saturday, Jan. 30, 2 p.m. at the Peachtree City Hall Council Chamber on your calendar. I want to review the city budget with you, the citizens.

The budget is NOT set in stone. Citizen input will make a difference. This is not a public hearing. This is simply me wanting to hear from the public without the intimidation factor of being in a room with the entire City Council and budget folks of the city.

I’ve no idea how many folks will show up, but I hope it’s a good turnout. Your opinion will be heard and noted. Everything will be on the table. No ideas will be summarily dismissed. We’re looking for ideas on how to reduce city government and make it as efficient as possible.

This will be the second such event. The first was held Monday, Jan. 11 at my home. I invited 20 folks and 10 replied to the invite to discuss the city budget and start coming up with ideas to get the budget under control. Six others had indicated they wanted to come to this first meeting but had a conflict.

The current budget was reviewed as well as great attention was focused on future years where the city is looking at a near $3M shortfall next year (FY2011) and a similar number for the year after (FY2012).

We now have the full effect of decisions made on past budgets over the last several years hitting us right in the middle of our faces. It’s going to take at least a couple years to get back on our feet. We need to start now, in FY2010, and not wait for next year’s budget.

Current assumptions are that a millage rate tax increase is needed in both future years. I have been collecting ideas from citizens and already have enough data to propose a workable FY2011 budget without a tax increase. But FY2012 still needs work, a lot of work. The more we do now will make FY2012 that much easier to handle.

Come to the Jan. 30 meeting to share your ideas and listen to mine. I have a proposal that’s elegantly simple and it’s doable for FY2011.

Remember, this is an “early on” proposal. A more refined plan will be developed over the coming months with citizen and other council members’ input to include formal public hearings.

Past budgets have been largely developed with an initial recommendation from the city’s finance office based on past experience and a lot of assumptions.

We need to change the mindset and begin looking at things as if they were our personal household budget. We decide what services we want/need. We decide how many employees it takes to run the city government. We decide what our tax rate will be.

We need to start thinking of ways to streamline and simplify. We need to get rid of no-value-added work.

I’m telling you, we can make the job as difficult or as easy as we want. We just need to step up and say, hey, this way is causing a lot of extra work and this extra work really isn’t adding anything of value to the end result desired.

It’s been said, citizens will participate in their local government only if they feel their participation makes a difference. I am working to ensure your participation will make a difference.

Our city council members have the authority and will make the decisions that make a difference. Failure to come to terms with not only today’s budget but out-year budgets will lead to citizen dissatisfaction and distrust.

A successful and sustainable budget will lead to confidence and prosperity for Peachtree City citizens.

Eric Imker

City Council Post 1

Peachtree City, Ga.