Imker’s proposed cuts draw fire from PTC's chief

From left, Peachtree City Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth, City Councilman Eric Imker and Mayor Don Haddix. Photos/John Munford.

Chief Eiswerth criticizes past councils for not increasing PTC’s ‘low’ property tax rate to pay for cost of living raises

With a $1.2 million shortfall projected for the 2010-2011 fiscal year starting

in October, Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker has suggested a range of actions the city could take to make up the difference and then some.

Imker’s ideas, presented at the City Council retreat Saturday, included:

• A five-day furlough for all city employees, saving a projected $350,000.

• Reducing city staff by another three full-time employees ($210,000).

• Eliminating one of the city’s two retirement plans: a 401K investment account and a defined benefit pension plan ($180,000).

• Cutting salaries for the highest-earning city employees (in the top 10 percent), with a potential savings of $110,000.

The suggestions drew criticism from Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth, who noted that $850,000 of Imker’s ideas were personnel costs. The chief characterized the cuts as “balancing the budget on the employees’ backs.”

“My point is the entire country is letting people go and asking for pay cuts, and I understand it is very sensitive,” Imker responded, adding that the model does include future pay raises for city employees in subsequent years.

“I understand in the business world, when business is down you have to get rid of employees and I understand that, unfortunately you have to let go,” Eiswerth said. “But our business isn’t going to decrease. ... There’s gonna still be as many more calls for help if not more than there is today. So continuing to look at the employees to pay the balance of the budget ... we’re asking $26.90 [tax increase] a year for a $250,000 house. That’s nothing.”

Eiswerth noted that last year when employees had to pay increased insurance premiums and received no raises, they were told the city would implement a small property tax increase. That increase was not approved by council, he added.

Imker said the city needs to “consider the tough decisions.”

Eiswerth said the city’s tax rate is still quite low and that a recent survey showed significant citizen satisfaction in their interactions with city employees.

Eiswerth also noted that citizens on surveys this year and last indicated their preference to raise property taxes instead of cutting services.

Councilwoman Kim Learnard said a property tax increase would be considered this year.

Imker said he appreciated Eiswerth’s input. They both agreed the city had taken financial missteps in the past for not raising taxes when significant expenditures were made.

Eiswerth said when the city’s library was expanded and when the city bought five acres off Ga. Highway 54 West at the entrance to the Wynnmeade subdivision, the city didn’t raise property taxes commensurately.

“My frustration is with the last several city councils, absolutely not with the city’s employees, especially in the budget department,” Imker said.

Mayor Don Haddix said the employees took a big hit in benefits and pay last year, while “the citizens were asked to do nothing.”

“Now what the employees are hearing, you’re saying, once again: ‘Employees, you can pay for it all. Citizens, we expect nothing from you,’” Haddix said. “So in other words it’s a constant hit on employees ... many of them are city residents. So the question is why is everything being directed to cut on city employees and why are the citizens on average of $26 a year, being removed from the formula?”

Imker replied that citizens all over the country are “getting fired, let go and taking pay cuts. Government cannot be immune from that.”

“But they’re not. They got hit last year,” Haddix retorted, asking Imker why citizens should not be faced with a property tax increase.

Haddix said he didn’t support the furlough days in particular but he could support some of Imker’s suggestions, including changes to the city’s hotel motel tax funding. Some of the other ideas merited further research, the mayor added.

City resident Steve Thaxton said he did not want a tax increase and said he felt a substantial part of the community thought the same.

Thaxton said he asked his employees to choose between a reduction in force and salary cuts, and they chose the latter. He said the city should manage its funds better and avoid a tax increase.

Imker agreed with Thaxton and suggested that city employees who didn’t like furloughs and pay cuts were welcome “to find another job.”

“If you can find a better job, go for it,” Imker said. “There’s 30 other people that will take your job. I’m sorry. I had to say it.”

Councilman Doug Sturbaum then interjected, telling Imker: “I draw the line there. That’s enough.”

“The last thing we want to do is challenge somebody else to find another job,” Sturbaum said. “And I take umbrage with that remark.”

Sturbaum then instantly moved to adjourn the meeting, which passed on a 4-1 vote with Imker voting against.

Prior to Imker’s presentation, city Finance Director Paul Salvatore pointed out that the city has scaled back its budget from $31 million to $26 million over the past two years.

“We have actively been managing the budget downward throughout the two years of the economic downturn,” Salvatore said.

Imker pointed out that the city for the next two years is relying on leftover SPLOST funds to pay for street and cart path maintenance for the next two years. After that, he said, the city will have a major problem coming up with the $1.5 million annual cost for the maintenance, Imker said.

GAltant
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Wow...Bonkers...you really want blood

Clearly you want blood from the workers and no tax increase.

Layoff and firing mania!

ever wonder if your boss is thinking the same of you???? or are you retired and don't care about your fellow working man!!!

Buck up and pay more taxes!

Bonkers
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Galt

I'm on a fixed income!
I however would pay a little more taxes for some things. Things that help those who are unfortunate.

GAltant
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All comments here are well done but I agree with Steve Brown

I agree with Mr. Brown and many of the comments below.
Its time for the citizens to do their part now.

We need to start to raise taxes slowly, over the next 2 to 3 years to cover the deficits. That will make it easier on the unemployed and people who are struggling with furloughs and no salary increases.

We should use some of the cash reserves with on a short term basis to cover the shortfalls that the first tax increase does not cover with the understanding that taxes will be raised to cover shortfalls and replenish the cash reserves.

We need to look for more cuts in the city budget which might include a hiring freeze on all departments including fire and police so that we do not have to furlough current workers or face layoffs later.

And, we should look at increase fees for services....
1-what about an annual golf cart fee - place those funds in reserve to cover future repaving of cart paths?
2-what about a small fee for using 911 placed in reserve for fire and police budgets?
I am sure there are other ideas that could be suggested where funds generated can be placed in reserve to replenish the service that is used.

And our seniors need protection through the homestead exemption!

Bonkers
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Galt: fees

There already is a golf cart fee every year. A water run-off fee every year, two 911 fees on the phone bills, and others.

All these are TAXES, not fees.

See what happens when a little at a time is added?

We should be able to reduce headcounts by at lesst 5% without catastrophe.
Expect those left to function harder.

The end of this is not near!

meanoldconservatives
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Bonker$

"All these are TAXES, not fees.

See what happens when a little at a time is added?"

Very interesting how you are so worked up about these TAXES adding up, yet so cavalier about higher taxes for health care "reform". Time to get that Abilify prescription refilled????

Bonkers
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MOC

One tax is for keeping people on the tax payroll we can't afford; the other is to insure every human has proper health care.
Anyway, it all SAVES money, will not increase my or your taxes!
Some health jobs and dividends will however be lost.

I think it is devious to add scores of "fees" etc., instead of simply increasing the regular tax bills! Politics!

meanoldconservatives
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Bonker$

"....the other is to insure every human has proper health care.
Anyway, it all SAVES money, will not increase my or your taxes!"

"Insuring" 30 million plus that have no coverage now is going to SAVE money??? Taxes will not be increased to pay for this for years down the road??? Your gullibility and stupidity is unparalleled in the universe Bonker$. You'd believe anything Obama/Pelosi/Reid says. I can't decide if I would rather see house Dems grow a set and vote this down or have it pass and sit back and enjoy the fallout. If they knew it wasn't dirty and unpopular, they wouldn't have been searching for back door methods to pass it. Man up and vote, up or down and then live with the consequences.

jevank
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Agree on the hidden taxes

The Golf cart fee is a one-time registration fee...not a yearly fee. But don't forget the fee (tax) tacked on the garbage collection bill.

Maybe we can put fees on the tree we cut down (oh, wait. They are trying to do that.) Well, maybe someone can run for mayor and threaten higher taxes if we don't vote for splost (oh yeah, that's be done too.)

How about a citizen blogging fee? Maybe that would stop Haddix from commenting on every little thing. How about toll booths on the golf cart paths? That way we get those pesky walkers too.

I noticed the survey showed the fireworks as the number 2 thing the respondants wanted cut, yet they only cut $5,000 from that. How about doing the hard work of cutting the budget, and quit the whining and sarcastic remarks.

Steve Brown
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City budget

When Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth says, "Imker’s ideas were personnel costs," he is correct. In reality, there are not many other places to cut unless you want to start selling city assets like the Logsdon administration did. A good question to ponder is how are we going to pay for the firefighters on the recent grant when the total expense eventually falls on us?
Imker made a good point too on the street and path expenses once the SPLOST funds are gone.
Former Mayor Bob Lenox talked about the changing paradigm back in 2001. Unfortunately, his council made it a lot worse with some nightmarish budgeting decisions. But he was right, and the paradigm has changed.
I am very concerned about seniors on fixed incomes and believe the mayor and council should increase the Low Income Senior Homestead Exemption anytime taxes are raised to compensate.

johenry
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Maybe you ought to try Spyglass

At least Imker put his name on the ballot and is coming to the table with $1.2 million in possible cuts. Stop complaining honey if you're not willing to step up to the plate.

Spyglass
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I have stepped up..

I have called for a slight tax increase...many times in this very paper.

Voting give me a certain right to complain...I know you've heard that one. :)

Bonkers
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To Spyglass; Slight tax increase

How about next year? A slight one there OK also? Maybe unslight?
How about the county raising house values a slight amount? OK?

Budgets have to be cut. People are the majority of the budget!

PTC_New_Native
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Bonkers in Cardiac Distress

I hope it is you that needs assistance when we are short on personel to respond to your emergency.

Bonkers
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No response?

Is a record being kept of who wants taxes to dry up for a while?
That would be so there would be no response,as you said, when one of them called for help.
Maybe someone from Fayetteville or the county would pick me up! That is who used to do PTC!
No one wants to eliminate such positions. All that is needed is 4-5 cuts from each department of public safety. At least half being LT. and above, with the rest taking a 10% pay cut or pickup more of their health costs.

Do the garbage collectors in NYC still make $100,000 per year with a huge pension and health coverage?

PTC_New_Native
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$100,000

How many at the Fire Department make $100,000/yr?
I believe it is public record. I don't know if the Chief makes that much. Where are you getting your numbers?

I believe the average rate for a Line Fire Fighter is around $8.00/hr. Do you want to do that job, with all the training required to run into burning buildings for $8.00/hr?

I hope someone is able to confirm or deny the existing line rate for Fire Fighters.

NUK_1
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Public record

Go to City Hall and ask for the pay/salary of every employee in PTC. They'll give it you without any trouble and it can be very enlightening to people that think the average firefighter makes $8/hr which isn't even $17,000 a year.

I have no problem with the pay of anyone at the Fire Dept but let's not be totally ignorant and think they are making $16,600/year.

PTC_New_Native
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Nuk

You are correct, they posted a position. But you need to be a Fire Fighter and an EMT or Paramedic. Then you can make $12.15/hr (EMT) or 13.41/hr (Paramedic). It looks like we don't have straigh smoke jumpers anymore. That is a lot of training to earn those big $$.

della
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You Are a Liar

Spyglass, you are a liar. I visited the library many times last fall and never did I see Mr. Imker blocking the door. He always parked his cart out of the way, on the other side of that large support pillar nowhere near the door, to make sure what you said wasn't happening. You are nothing but a bold faced liar. Your credibility is gone. Poof!

bad_ptc
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Why wasn't Mr. Imker ticketed by the police?

If Mr. Imker had his golf cart parked anywhere on the red bricks he was in violation of Chapter 78-Traffic, Article III-Motorized Carts, Sec. 78-93. - Operation regulations, (f) “Motorized carts shall not be operated on sidewalks at any time”.

The PTCPD didn't cut the city manager any slack for breaking the law while operating a golf cart so why does Mr. Imker get a pass?

Spyglass
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Say what you will..

Call me names, I know what I saw...it wasn't blocking the door totally, I never said that, but he was clearly parked in the way in an area that golf carts aren't supposed to be...even you saw that.

If we as a City think it's fine to call out City Employees in an open meeting, I'm disappointed in my neighbors.

I'm assuming you were addressing me, even though you didn't reply directly..if not, sorry for the mistake.

Spyglass
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Imker is a loose cannon at best..

a complete buffoon at worst. I knew he wasn't the right guy for the job when he wouldn't leave me alone when I tried to go into the Library one day..he was out front campaigning, with his Golf Cart right up by the door in the way. I can't believe we elected this fellow.

della
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Can't Stand the Truth

So Mitymite is retired living on SS. How would you like a $200 tax increase? If Imker isn't going to tell us how it is, who is? I don't see him as grandstanding. He said countless times his ideas were just a starting point recommendation and that he didn't expect everything to be approved. He's absolutely right about employees who don't like the pay there's others who will gladly take the job. He's right about the entire country losing jobs and folks taking pay cuts, and city employees should be willing to also. The sickening weeping that I didn't get a pay raise last year really breaks my heart. And I won't get one this year. Tell that to the millions who lost their job and the millions more who have taken pay cuts over the last two years. You bleeding hearts need a lesson in real life. Retired or not, you have yet to learn the government employees are just like the rest of us. They need to pony up too.

MYTMITE
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Della, one thing I am not is a bleeding heart.

No, I wouldn't really like a $200 tax increase but will find a way to pay it if it helps to keep Peachtree City the place that attracts people wanting a good quality of life and the type of businesses we desire. Imker may be telling his version of how it is but no matter how you slice it, his remarks about employees were rude and unnecessary. Wonder how he would feel about the same remarks being made to him when he was employed? Maybe he feels these remarks make him look tough but they only make him look rude and crude. Believe me I have had a lesson in real life, probably more so than you.

NUK_1
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Imker is right but that's not the end-all of everything

Showing some class and respect comes with the job. This has been a failing for several councilmembers in the recent past and one of them is now Mayor. Denigrating city employees-even when you may be "right"-is totally unnecessary. You can get your point across without marginalizing people that have already felt the pain. That doesn't mean that Imker is wrong; it means maybe it's time to not beat people over the head with the obvious....they already know. To do otherwise makes it appear like every city employee should just bow down and praise the council for having jobs.

Imker has the right ideas and the totally wrong approach. Reminds me exactly of Don Haddix or Steve Brown and both got elected to be Mayors in PTC so maybe Imker is further ahead of the curve than I am.

Robert W. Morgan
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Not so fast Nuk. Imker may apologize

Thursday night is the perfect time for Mr. Imker to rehabilitate his image with a simple apology to all city employees. It wouldn't take much - just a "sorry if my remarks were misinterpreted" kind of a face-saving non-apology worthy of Don Imus or George Allen.

I would hope Mr Haddix has counseled Mr. Imker about appropriate behavior and if he has and Mr. Imker does come forth with an apology, then kudos to both of them and we need to put this behind us and move on.

I really hope this happens. If not, well then we have a real problem on council and his showboating will be a distraction to normal council business - just like Logsdon and Brown's council had distractions in the past.

Spyglass
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No question he should apologize...

And if he does, I'll retract somewhat my statement above...until then, the truth hurts. You're very correct, if he continues along these lines, he will prove to be nothing but a sideshow at Council Meetings.

MYTMITE
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Imker and his offensive remark.

I find the remark by Councilman Imker insensitive and indicative of his personality. How rude and callous to tell our city employees that if they don't like having a five day furlough that they can take a hike. I wish Imker would take a hike--right off the council. Mr. Sturbaum showed class--something Imker sorely lacks. I am not a city worker; I am a senior citizen who depends on my Social Security check to pay my mortgage and other expenses, still I moved to PTC for the lifestyle it offered and I am willing to accept a small tax increase to keep this lifestyle. I am sure that I could also come up with ways to cut the budget if I used Imker's thinking. He is nothing but a 'showboater', as they would say in Texas "All hat and no cattle." But then he does seem to have plenty of that cattle waste at his disposal.

mudcat
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Rude and offensive? Didn't need to happen

If you had just listened to me last November and elected 3 women to council and another as mayor, none of this would be happening.

Cyndi would be perfect to lead us through these troubled times and Captain Bluster would be sitting in the audience watching Beth and the other ladies (and Doug) balancing a budget without any emotion or name-calling.

Ladies rule and they excel at reigning in expenses and keeping their emotions under control.

Spear Road Guy
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Barf Big Time Mudcat

Cyndi Plunkett the perfect leader??? Barf! Seeing that she did nothing but make things worse for the last 4 years it's hard to swallow what you're spooning out.

skyspy
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We Need our Firefighters

We need our firefighters/paramedics more than they need us. It would be very hard to replace them. Very few people have the special training that is required for these jobs. We would have a very hard time attracting any new employees to this city because of the low pay we offer and the fact that we have not given them even a cost of living raise.

A small increase in property tax wouldn't kill anyone. We could also save money by scrapping the bubble over the kedron pool. What a waste of money that is. We need our firefighters more than we need a pool open year round.

Our city manager should be the first person who should take a pay cut and he would probably be the easiest to replace of all of our city employees. One council person would be easy to replace also.

PTC_New_Native
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I agree Skyspy

I decided to do some research and found that the PTC Fire department had done a stellar job in the last review improving the ISO rating. This allowed me to reduce my home owner’s insurance premium (being military). I also found out that we have some of the best trained individuals.

While I have not been in a situation to require their assistance, I am glad that they are there and they have the training.

Can we get along with a smaller department? Can we get by with less training for these individuals? Sure, but I would not bet my life on it. I still pay for my life insurance; I still pay for my health insurance. In tough times, there are some things you can get by without; others are just plain silly to forgo. The long term impact from some of these decisions can have far reaching and long term impacts beyond the downturn in the economy.

AtHomeGym
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So tell me New Native,

just what does "being military" have to do with your homeowners insurance and what do you mean when you say "I still pay for my health insurance"---having a similar background, just don't understand exactly what you mean. Thanks.

PTC_New_Native
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Discounts

Because I am former military, I get my house insurance through the USAA. The ISO rating of the fire department will reduce the cost of my insurance.

inkslinger
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Another one...

When is the last time you went without a paycheck? Health benefits? Gtd. income? Retirement?

PTC_New_Native
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PTCGOIL

I went without a paycheck for 3 months last year when I was layed off. I had to be creative in paying bills and dip into my 401k.

pumpkin
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Cuts

Make some cuts in the administrative staff at city hall is a suggestion. Half your staff stands around talking make-up and salads, they need to go home and take care of their families. Please, you are so top heavy in the office at city hall including building department.

While you are at it the police cars sitting around in parked units talking for hours could be trimed back or at least put to better use. Why do they park behind Jersey Mikes and the empty strip malls, could it be they are trying to hide these very obvious gossip sessions because they have nothing to do? Please, and when there is a fender bender five cars show up, is this necessary?

Bonkers
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pumpkin: you don't understand

Often the rule is: The more one does the more others will let you do while they talk salads and make-up!

Why do you think few code violators are written up and fined?

sas
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Chief Eiswerth

BRAVO!!!!

The Wedge
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Yes, Bravo

I find myself in New Jersey tonight. The chief fits in well here. The public service union here is a model to be venerated and emulated. bravo.

Spear Road Guy
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Bad Eiswerth!!!

That tax increase is nothing???

Imker's got the guts to suggest city cuts. I admire that!!!

1s0k
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It is time for the citizens of PTC to compromise

You admire the fact that Imker suggests more cuts by the city, but the city has already cut over $5 million from the budget in the last 2 years. It is time for compromise, the employees of the city are willing to do their part, now it is the citizens' turn.

The problem is that in this conservative town, the word "taxes" is a four letter word. They do not know the difference between Federal, State and Local taxes...it is all taxes and they are all bad. Many people are uninformed about how much of their property taxes actually go to the city (Hint: Not Much).

Roughly $27.00 a year for a $250,000 home that has not seen a CITY INITIATED tax increase in quite a while, would keep services at the current level and avoid anymore personnel cuts, is that so unreasonable?

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