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PTC Council wrestles with range of proposed tax hikes

Citizens will get another chance to have their say Thursday night about the proposed $26.7 million budget for Peachtree City.

The question is whether there are enough votes on the City Council for the two property tax rate options proposed so far. That may be fleshed out a bit better during a public hearing on the budget at Thursday night’s 7 p.m. council meeting at City Hall. No final vote is expected for another two weeks.

One proposal calls for a half-mill increase, which has been advocated by Mayor Don Haddix and Councilman Doug Sturbaum. The other option, a 1.25 mill hike, is being considered by council members Vanessa Fleisch, Kim Learnard and Eric Imker, though none of them expressed a concrete opinion in favor of it at last week’s budget workshop.

The 1.25 mill tax increase would cost $108 a year for a home valued at $272,000. The 0.5 mill increase instead would cost $43.

The advantage seen to the 1.25 mill increase is that it would make up more than half of the projected $18.2 million shortfall the city expects over the next five years. The remainder of that shortfall would be covered by spending down the city’s reserve fund to the minimum level required by city policy: an amount equal to 20 percent of the city’s annual budget for any given year.

The projected $18.2 million shortfall is tied to the loss of funds from the expired transportation special local option sales tax. Also expected is a steep reduction in the city’s regular local option sales tax due to the city’s population growth flattening out, compared to increased population growth in unincorporated Fayette County and its cities.

The proposed budget includes no new employees and no raises of any kind for city staff. It also includes the purchase of eight new police vehicles and a new fire engine, all of which will be purchased with cash reserves in lieu of financing. It also includes no staff cuts, no furloughs and no pay cuts.

More discussion is expected on a new proposal from Learnard to have the city hire a staffer to assist the Development Authority of Peachtree City. DAPC is tasked with recruiting new businesses, helping strengthen businesses in the city’s village retail centers and also luring new retailers sought by local residents.

Haddix and Sturbaum want to increase the DAPC budget from $35,000 to $150,000 instead so the authority can hire its own employee. But that move has been opposed by the other three council members: Fleisch, Imker and Learnard.

Last week Learnard said the city could instead hire an employee to assist DAPC with most of its functions, which a number of other Georgia cities already have. But Haddix contended such an arrangement was illegal because development authorities are intended to be more autonomous under Georgia law.

Haddix and Sturbaum have said they will vote against any city budget that doesn’t include the increased funding. Their argument is that the city needs to increase its efforts to attract new jobs beyond the current level, which is handled completely by volunteers.


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