Imker: No progress on PTC budget mess

Now that Peachtree City’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget has been released I need to point out several concerns.

I had previously told you we faced a $20 million ($19.6 million) shortfall over the next five years. This included next year’s FY2011 being $1.2 million short. The proposed budget still shows an $18.1 million problem for the next five years. Not only that, the solution to next year’s budget being proposed uses city reserves of $764,000 and a tax increase for $459,000.

So there you have it. No real progress in facing the city’s budget problem. I cannot stand by and allow this to go unchallenged.

I proposed $2 million in possible cuts and savings over a month ago. Little of it was included. Apparently tough decisions can’t be made.

First, allow me to summarize out how we got into this mess:

1. The 2005 SPLOST. $6 million was used to offset day-to-day operations. Basically, the shell game was used with the money.

2. The 2004 library bond for $4.9 million. Council put it on the ballot, it passed, and then council failed to raise the millage rate to pay for it. We’re now paying nearly $8 million with principle and interest for this bond.

3. Hiring over 30 safety employees without a corresponding millage rate increase. Cost around $2 million.

4. The city generously picked up the $1.6 million airport bond in 2002. Full cost with interest: over $2 million. We, the citizens, are stilling paying $165,000 a year for this until 2015!

5. The city generously picked up the $1 million tab for the tennis center. Full cost with interest: over $1.5 million. We, the citizens, are stilling paying $150,000 a year for this until around 2016.

6. Let’s not forget our favorite: The economy.

All these are very rough numbers, of course. But the message is there.

I disagree that we’re understaffed.

I disagree with more taxes. We can do it without raising them; tough decisions are needed.

I disagree with using city reserves to balance the budget. I’ve pointed out numerous times what the extra over our policy of 20 percent reserves should be used for.

I disagree with comparisons that are only there to show one side. Real-life comparison is best.

I disagree with surveys that are skewed to obtain the answer desired.

The way the two budget questions were asked on the January survey were a joke. I prefer the only survey that counts. It was two months earlier where the taxpayers said “No” to new taxes by an overwhelming margin.

I can ask a survey question that will get you to agree to ultimately give me a million bucks if I word it right.

I disagree that we can’t find an able body looking for work [who] would be absolutely thrilled to get a city job with a vested retirement plan after working only five years, 10 years for fire or police!

I disagree with city employees who feel they should not contribute more to solving the problem. What would they do if they worked in the commercial/business world?

Don’t pull the old morale story on me. What about the morale of those who have taken pay cuts already, those who no longer have a defined benefit retirement plan, those who no longer have their employer contributing to their 401k retirement plan, those who have lost their jobs and can’t find work?

These folks are several orders of magnitude worse off than government employees.

I’ve been asked, “Why don’t we just raise taxes?” The assumption here is that it’s only about $30 a year for a one-quarter mill millage rate increase.

OK, I’ll answer that. You may be able to afford a tax increase. Indeed, I can certainly afford it. In fact, with the affluence in PTC, probably most folks can.

But some folks have to choose between, do I pay $20 to join Fayette Senior Services for the year or do I pay $10 to join the Gathering Place for the year? Many, many folks just can’t afford any tax increase.

I am not prepared to tell them that we’ve been unable to make the hard decisions and you’ll just have to pay.

By the way, a “tax only solution” to solving the budget problem is not a one-quarter mill tax; it’s about 2 mills beginning with next year’s budget.

That’s not just $30 a year; it’s closer to $250 a year, every year, for an average home with a fair market value of about $270,000.

Do you have an extra thousand bucks lying around you don’t need? Again, this was for the “tax only solution.”

How many of you citizens really think that, if you give government more money, that later they’ll lower taxes? You’re dreaming if you think that. I know, because I am on the inside of government now!

But I’m not your typical government politician. I will fight for those who would be run over by those who can’t make tough decisions.

We start budget debates on Tuesday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. I personally invite you to attend and watch the spectacle that will unfold. I hope we can have a constructive meeting with open minds and address the budget problems with real solutions.

Eric Imker

City Council Post 1

eimker@peachtree-city.org

Peachtree City, Ga.

della
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Joined: 10/30/2005
Right On!

Thank you, Lurker, for setting the uninformed/misinformed straight. If they did a little research themselves, they could be as well-informed as you and many others who understand that if you don't have the money, you don't spend. Apparently that's a very tough pill to swallow since many people have huge car loans, inflated mortgages and outrageous credit card bills that they can't pay off. Instead of living within their means, they spend, spend, spend. Then the rest of us who live within our means have to bail these people out! It's so simple yet many don't get it.

It's the same concept with Government. The policians feel that the city's money isn't personally theirs so they can be careless and spend it until it's gone. So, the easiest way to get more money is to raise taxes.

I'm sick and tired of people (and Government) not living within their means. Perhaps it's to keep up with their neighbor or relative; or they feel that they deserve it. If we don't take responsibility for our actions, this country is going to go to the dogs!

cdl305
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Joined: 01/31/2007
Morale and other

It seems clear to me that you have not actually managed a business unit or a business. You appear to have the labor mentality of a supervisor in sweat shop in a third world country. Any business unit manager, middle manager or top manager clearly understands that employee moral and retention are a key part of success of a business and that employees are a valuable asset to manage well. There are significant costs involved in creating a trained employee and we spend thousand of dollars training some of our public safety employees. A significant number of employees sitting in city positions and are college educated, have years of work experience that were brought to their jobs and have years of time in the city. You do not just replace these folks as you have suggested with one of the 30 lining up for the job. If they were in fact a dime per 30 employees (versus a dime a dozen - inflation I guess)as you have suggested, then we certainly would not need the interview process that I suspect is in place for many of these positions.

It is also quite disturbing that you state " The 2005 SPLOST. $6 million was used to offset day-to-day operations. Basically, the shell game was used with the money". This suggests that there was misuse of money and I may be wrong, but that is a violation of the law. Now while I have not agreed with some/many decisions of the city, I seriously doubt that there has been a misuse of funds as you suggest. If so, please put them in writing for all to see and we can prosecute those people involved. What I believe is that this is just more rhetoric and sound bites - sounds good but is a gross mis-representation of facts. Please, prove me wrong and show us that there was actually SPLOST money used for something other than what was specified when it was approved.

Property values have declined and as such, without a millage increase, so has revenue. Unlike a business where if sales decline, production demand is down and you can then do with less, the city infrastructure has not changed and thus the costs do not change. The city has done a reasonably good job in cutting to bone in non public safety positions (we in fact grew public safety by 26 or 27 positions (?), compounding the financial stresses). My appraised value went down by 6.25% this year, so will my taxes. The proposed increase of 0.25 does not even cover this decrease. Unless you plan on slashing public safety, to maintain the health of this city, the morale of employees and the benefits that the citizens have requested, it is time to raise taxes.

PTClurker
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Easy reply

Well this comment is a bunch of hogwash.

Moral is indeed important, but keeping a business (in this case the business of Peachtree City) out of bankruptcy should always be the top AND most responsible priority. Many, many, many businesses across this country have had to downright fire folks. Why can't our city enact relatively minor cuts of a few furlough days and a mere 1% pay cut? Good grief! It's like whining about a flick on the hand when the rest of the country is getting their heads chopped off! Man up already.

Peachtree City is renowned across the country for being one of the best places to live. But if we want to keep it that way we do indeed have to make the tough decisions that every other city and business has to make given prior mis-plannings. The bottom line is that we simply cannot afford to be the "best" at everything right now. Some cuts, even into services we'd rather not touch (such as police, emergency, etc) HAVE to be made. We just simply can't afford it! Period. The way to keep PTC one of the greatest places to live is get back on our fiscal feet first, THEN later bring back the surplus of services that make our city top notch. I'm sorry if I have to come across as the "oh so evil reality devil", but the truth is the truth. Else we'll just have more of the same. (The cuts into individual services do not have to be extreme so long as cuts are managed across multiple city disciplines, mind you.)

Raising taxes? What a cop-out. I agree with Imker that once the city has your money, they will NEVER give it back. A city can be pricked to death with a thousand "minor" tax-hike needles and eventually, over the course of years, thousands of dollars are going to be forked over. And what will government do? More of the same. More spending. More fiscal irresponsibility. You know it. I know it. Don't kid yourself.

NO!

The buck stops here! NO. MORE. TAXES.

Some will say "Well, housing values go up with higher taxes." What a bunch of garbage. Yeah, they may in some areas in very specific conditions, but for the vast majority of folks they need the money in their pocket now. There are other well established points to shoot down that assertion, but space here is limited.

PS - If you want to see how misdirected the 2005 SPLOST money was I think you can look up the records at city hall. I believe they are public for anyone, if I'm not mistaken. To summarize it though I'll fill you in: The first word in the acronym "SPLOST" stands for "special". It is intended as a one-time, limited duration, special tax for a specific purpose. What previous council did was use that money not for a specific purpose that it was approved for, but for everyday general business. Previous council used it as if it was normal income and budgeted with it accordingly! And there you have ONE of the many reasons the city budget is in this mess! Why was there no punishment for such irresponsibility you ask? You got me there. I'm just carrying out my own personal punishment one "vote" at a time.

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