PTC Council praises no tax hike in new budget

Peachtree City Council members had nothing but good things to say about the staff-proposed $29.58 million budget at its first workshop on the document Monday night.

Staff was widely lauded by council members for the budget, which will not require a property tax increase and does fill a funding gap for cart and road paving projects for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget from staff includes the use of $794,000 in unrestricted cash reserves though the city will still have more than 34 percent of its annual budget in that category. City policy dictates a minimum of only 20 percent.

City resident John Dufresne asked how much of those funds the city could spend down without risking a downgrade to the city’s AAA credit rating. Finance Director Paul Salvatore noted that some critical repairs are necessary in the coming year to several bridges in particular which may require the city to dip further into that reserve if the countywide sales tax is not approved.

The budget also includes a second proposed facilities bond to be used to upgrade deteriorating infrastructure in the city. That bond, which staff has suggested should be for $2.5 million, would not require a tax increase either because the city can use debt service capacity freed up by the recent paying off of the airport authority bonds, officials said.

The debt service on such a bond would be about $298,000 a year over 10 years, according to Salvatore, who projected it would go to market early next year presuming it is approved by council.

At the conclusion of staff’s presentation, Mayor Don Haddix said he had no criticism of staff’s work on the budget, which he sized up as “praiseworthy.”

Councilwoman Kim Learnard said she was “thrilled” with the results from four years of hard work to eliminate the $22 million shortfall from the city’s five-year budget plan.

“It’s hard to argue with a zero millage rate increase the next five years,” Learnard said. “... I am not only comfortable with this budget, I am ecstatic.”

Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she was pleased that the budget focused on improving infrastructure that has long been without maintenance and needed to be caught up with.

Councilman George Dienhart thanked staff and said the budget was an example of staff continuing to exceed council’s expectations.

That harmony among council members was missing earlier in the meeting with a lengthy exchange between Haddix and Councilman Eric Imker. The exchange included a presentation by Imker showing that the average-priced city home would pay $668 a year in city taxes, just $2 higher than in 2010. By contrast, residents pay more for water and sewer bills for example, Imker said.

Haddix countered that Imker’s chart showing city property taxes did not include stormwater fees, which the city recently increased, and other fees citizens pay that are similar to taxes.

Citizens, Haddix argued, look at the whole cost they pay and not just the slice attributable to property taxes.

When the mini-debate ended, Imker seemed satisfied that he had met his goal.

“I wanted to prove the mayor has to have the last word, and the mayor is always right.”

In his presentation, Imker contended that going from a $22 million shortfall in the city’s five-year budget model that existed four years ago to the stable budget seen today and projected for the future was “a miracle.”

Staff warned that the city does face a potential future problem if county voters don’t approve a proposed one-cent sales tax proposed by the Fayette County Commission. That two-year tax would give the city $12-13 million to use on road and cart path repavings, but without the funds, the city will need another means to pay for the work.

Staff’s suggestion is if the sales tax vote fails this November for the city to pursue a referendum the following year for voter authorization on a general obligation bond to pay for the work, which would necessitate a property tax rate increase of about .6 mills. Alternatively, council could look at simply raising the property tax millage rate or making further cuts to the budget.

Imker contended that if the economy comes back and brings the property tax digest with it as suspected, the city might not need to do any of the above, as increasing property values would close the funding gap left by the exhaustion of funds from the 2004 countywide transportation sales tax.

Husband and Fat...
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Congrats to the City staff

and the council members that contributed.
For my education, how much did the mayor, Mr. Dienhart, and Ms. Fleisch contribute to this budget?

Still a little disturbed that we didn't address the cart path and road budget. Its almost like the city is now trying to put us in a position to approve the splost tax. Why do we always need to monkey around with this line item. Do we really care if the tax is pulled from our left or right pocket? The savings from out of county spenders is not that significant to PTC and we are even being taxed for county failures.

Larry.Sussberg
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Husband & Father 2

To help answer your question, both Dienhart and Fleisch helped in the budgeting process but Eric Imker was definitely the lead. Mr. Imker has always been great at keeping people who positively contribute in the loop.

All 4 were active and involved, but none of them will post that here.

Mr. Salvatore and Dr. Pennington worked hard and took their lead from the majority which included all 4.

Of course, you already see the accusation posted here, but meetings happen, and decisions are made by many in a peaceful manner.

Contrary to what you read, the 4 on city council work fairly well together, at times things happen but overall they (all 4) have been a great team. Of course its an election year so all bets are off in some areas, lol.

Working with the city staff, all of them, council and staff took a $22 million deficit and turned it around. That's approximately $5.5 million a year...The deficit was almost the size of the entire annual budget. It took bold action and leadership by staff and council.

Don Haddix
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Haddix: Contribution

I have opposed this approach to the Budget and my proposal has been dismissed every year.

How much have Councilmembers Dienhart and Fleisch contribution to this Budget? The same as Learnard and Imker, nothing except pushing for the SPLOST.

Fleisch attempts to be neutral, but if she did not support it she would have said so loud and clear. She has not seen a tax she does not like in four years.

Also wanted is a $2.5 million new Infrastructure Bond.

As I said on the Dais, Staff works within the limits and instruction of the Majority. There are things they would do differently if allowed. Things they and I agree upon.

Take a look at the Revised Agenda for tomorrow. The new:
Discuss/Consider Distribution Methods for SPLOST Funds
is mine.

Even though I oppose the SPLOST I found a way to get an extra $434,537.00 by not going along with Chairman Brown's distribution method using the LOST numbers.

We have things that must be done and paid for. My objection has been to not realize there are other approaches than tax and debt for everything.

I am the only one in PTC office that has owned and operated a business.

With all your criticisms of me, I ask you, what other elected has saved more money for the City than me without hurting a single service? In fact, enhancing them?

No one.

I fought against the do nothing approach of Harold Logsdon as well.

Problem is the majority now has flipped from his extreme to the opposite extreme. Neither extreme works.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Mayor

I didn't call anyone out. I want to see how much each of the 3 candidates for mayor contributed to this budget so I can make a mental note.

My criticisms stem from your inability to play well with others. We can't go thru another 4 yrs with a mayor no one wants to work with due to the runaway mouth and people skills.

I am happy about the tennis center and think you have some good ideas, but when you have alienated people, its hard to regain their trust. And that's where we are at.

Robert W. Morgan
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I am not running because people told me they didn't want me back

Now, can anyone interpret that to mean anything other than what it says? This is a direct quote - cut and copied for complete accuracy. So, what is the mayor saying here?

AtHomeGym
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Robbo & Interpretation

C'mon man,it's a clear insinuation that he's running BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE TOLD HIM THEY WANTED HIM TO RUN AGAIN!
Apparently those people haven't made themselves public yet but perhaps time will tell. Anyway, y'all have a great campaign & race over there! May still be room for another candidate--or two!

Don Haddix
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Haddix: Alienate

On who has done the alienation and has not been good for PTC, a lot of people disagree with you and trust me, not them.

Scary to think being Kumbaya means more to you than good ideas and accomplishments.

It is great to have a majority in agreement with good ideas. But, when you don't, you have to fight to get things done.

Doing it your way, the 2009 election would have gone very differently and Plunkett and Boone would still be in office. Maybe even Logsdon.

After all, they were Kumbaya and I was the one fighting for change.

I am not running because people told me they didn't want me back. Quite the opposite. Nor am I running because people has been silent either.

November will answer the question as to who is right. Until then, we will have to agree to disagree.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Haddix

No one needs a council that always agrees, holds hands and sits around singing by the campfire. What I do expect of a mayor is someone who can pull the troops together and lead.

You had a great opportunity with the Needs Assessment, but failed because you couldn't rally your fellow council members. You had another great opportunity with the budget, but failed to convince anyone your plan would work. You have another opportunity, but made the 54/74 corridor a political item. You could have gained much more credibility had you not gone behind councils back to seek reimbursement for your lawyers fees after your "part drunk" claim.

However instead you always feel the need to call your fellow council members out in a public forum instead of communicating one on one and garnering support with facts.

When a team does not live up to expectations, the team gets rid of the manager. You my friend are the manager of the team that has not lived up to expectations.

Larry.Sussberg
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Husband & Father of 2

It's more than "leadership".

PTC was on the verge of a financial crisis 4 years ago. Today we are in better health witha a $22 million deficit eliminated. There was no clearly written financial plan or proposal offered by this mayor plus for 4 years he has thrown rocks and pointed fingers at Mr. Imker and company yet offered 0. All he knows is how to fight with people and hurl crap at them if he doesn't get his own way.

So, as he claims that he has saved the city $1 million on recreation programs which is a key 1 issue he focuses on, is fine, but its not the $22 million deficit that needed to be adressed.

The KUMBAYA statement says it all about this guy.

Robert W. Morgan
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Morgan: Haddix not running. News flash

I read it right here on the Citizen website. Lookie here -

"I am not running because people told me they didn't want me back. Quite the opposite. Nor am I running because people has been silent either." Double or triple negatives? You figger it out.

Thank be to God, begorah. The devil has left the building. We have our very own "Stain". Remember the Kimmer?

Who in their right mind ever voted for this silly little man? Anybody voting for him this time? Speak up! And please tell us why.

Larry.Sussberg
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Review of Haddix's rant

The use of the word I (as in me) = 9 times

Attacks on others, lets see, Dienhart, Fleisch, Brown, Logsdon, Learnard, Imker = 6