Haddix: Why brag on balancing budget with taxes, debt?
Having chaired the workshop reported on in the Imker budget trimming article it is important that comments, not reported, be shared with the citizens. Especially so when being the only voice that said this same old approach has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.
The city manager’s model is based on council guidance given at the retreat. That guidance was no service cuts. Staff did their best, under that stipulation, to tell us what would have to happen, not only next year, but in the new five year model.
Here, I remind all that council members Kim Learnard, Vanessa Fleisch and Eric Imker had their model every year, 2010 on.
They were emphatic, ridiculing any who disagreed, that their 2010 and 2011 budgets were ”genius,” solving all problems by 2016.
This year shows those who disagreed were right, they were wrong. Their budgets have failed.
As warned, in what was called the “Smoke and Mirrors” letter to the editor last year, those line item cuts to make the budget look good in an election year would have to be put back. Put back they were.
We don’t need a “Smoke and Mirrors 2” budget passed this year.
The model has a 0.3 mill tax increase for 2013 and a 0.2 mill increase for the following three years. So, there is a total of a 0.9 mill tax increase, doubling non-Facilities Authority debt, and draining the reserves to 20 percent plus $500,000.
It also has an almost 6 percent increase in the tax digest, meaning increased home values. We are supposed to be balanced by 2017.
Is balancing a budget with taxes and debt something to brag about?
Folks, from 2008 on there has been an increase in the tax digest shown every year in the new models. The reality has been a decrease in the tax digest, every year.
When I asked staff about that, the answer was there needs to be some optimism. I prefer reality.
Why? Because if we see a flat or negative tax digest in those years, the model is out the window and we will be going into the red.
That means being forced to do a major tax increase, on top of what is already proposed, or more drastic service cuts than if we do due diligence now.
As stated in the workshop, it is yet another year of proposed Band-Aids and postponements of needed expenditures. Another year of wanting to cut safety, our most wanted and valued service to Peachtree City.
Also, I repeated the urgency for a needs assessment, which the city manager agreed does not currently exist.
That means we actually gather in-depth information and input from the citizens. We look at what we are spending on a service, how many citizens are actually using it and is it warranted.
What services are we doing that are done better by the private sector? Should we go public/private, re-purpose such facilities or sell them to a private company? Create realistic priorities.
In example, why have we spent money, deliberately, to provide services to people outside of Peachtree City?
A lot of questions for which the opinions of council is insufficient. We need to know.
Staying the course is not working. Some would try to say the course is different, which is only partially true.
But it is absolutely the same course as regards to the majority wanting to use their personal preferences on where we stand and what we need.
It is absolutely necessary to make the right decision by first getting all the facts, not assumptions or wants.
Don Haddix, mayor
Peachtree City, Ga.