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Imker suggests trimming PTC police, fire budgets

Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker is asking for a little more budget cutting from the police and fire departments among other recommended trims he suggested at Thursday night’s budget workshop.

Imker said he is asking the police department to cut an additional police car plus another $60,000 of its $7 million budget and for the fire department to cut an extra $50,000 of its $6.6 million budget.

Imker said that if Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark can make those budget cuts, he would support the purchase this year of new records management software. Otherwise he thinks that cost should be added to next year’s budget.

Imker said he also is asking for the library to cut its $1.016 million budget by $25,000, with a suggestion that it come from the $140,000 planned to purchase new books and videos.

Other cuts proposed by Imker include a $15,000 trim to the city’s contingency fund, a reduction in “mayor and council salaries” of $8,000, a cut in the city manager’s budget of $6,000, and $3,000 each from the finance and purchasing departments. Imker also suggested cutting ties with the company that hosts the city council minutes and the like for a savings of $5,000, arguing the service could be conducted another way using new technology.

Imker said he was merely making suggestions for city staff to consider and present to council at a future date.

Mayor Don Haddix said he still believes the city should conduct a needs assessment to determine its service levels instead of the need to “nitpick” cuts in the budget every year.

Imker said he needed more input on why the public works budget rose from $4 million last year to $4.5 million this year. Public Works Director Mark Caspar was not at the meeting, but Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said it’s most likely the increase is tied to the increase in maintenance levels to avoid long-term neglect that had occurred at several city facilities.

Imker said he is at the point where it is getting very difficult to trim from the budget because it has been cut so deeply over the past several years. It is to the point where Imker contends that the proposed .3 mill tax increase, which will increase the tax bill on a $260,000 home by $30, is needed unless residents decide they want to cut services.

The tax increase, Imker said, would net the city about $500,000.

He also argued that the $30 in additional taxes will help maintain about $13,000 in fair market value for the average home in Peachtree City, which he thinks is worth the increase.
Residents who absolutely oppose a tax increase should be prepared to suggest where to cut the budget.

During the public hearing on the budget, resident Eric Snell asked council to use the cash reserves to balance the budget instead of using a property tax increase. Snell was informed that the council planned to spend down the reserves to the minimum 20 percent level over the next three years.

Snell countered that the reserves could be set to a lower percentage if necessary to help the city navigate the tough financial waters seen across the nation.

No vote was taken on any of Imker’s budget-trimming suggestions, though they are expected to be sorted out at a future council workshop.

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