Imker: Finally, plan in place to solve PTC’s long-term budget shortages
Finally, Peachtree City’s long-developing budget problem will be addressed in earnest at this Thursday’s council meeting. Years of dodging the problem with no real solutions other than kicking it down the road will come to an end, one way or another.
I can pretty much guarantee the solution chosen will not be to my liking. Over the last seven months I’ve advocated $2 million in solutions, including expense reductions in certain areas that would NOT reduce services. I’ve also advocated future revenue generating ideas of equal importance.
I know it will eventually be a compromise. Regardless, I’ll be happy to tell the citizens when this is all done we’ll have a plan to return the city to fiscal responsibility for the future – at the least expensive option available.
Had the problem been addressed last year, the millage rate solution to solve it would have been only 1.00, not 1.25. But alas, it was an election year; need I say more? Had the problem been properly addressed two years ago, the millage rate solution to solve it would have been only 0.75. By dodging the problem for the last two years, the citizens will have to pay more in the end.
Again, I must point out a quote of mine back in June 2008 and one I used during the campaign last year: “Let’s get lean now before the financial crisis is on top of us.” I will ensure this council finally faces up to the problem.
It took all my efforts to finally get the budget model to show the problem. I asked staff to show what the budget would be without hiding the problem with out-year millage rate increases. In March I got my wish.
It publicly showed for the first time, what I already knew: an unprecedented $20 million problem in the next five years. This council took action at the spring retreat and made cuts that reduced the five-year problem by $2 million. We’re still stuck with an $18 million shortfall over the next five years.
As stated in a recent public budget workshop, PTC would go bankrupt in 2013 if we continued down the road as has been done the last few years. Ever increasing services without paying for them will have finally caught up to us. Without cuts and/or without additional revenue we’d have to use every penny of city reserves and still the city would go bankrupt in 2013.
This is not my opinion; this is fact as presented by our financial department in public meetings. Either cuts in services, reductions in employee benefits (around two-thirds of the budget), increases in non tax revenues, cuts that don’t reduce services, a tax increase or a combination of all of the above will be implemented.
I was elected primarily to get in there and do something about the budget. The citizens know I will be tough. Not because I enjoy it but because these are tough times and tough decisions need to be made. I don’t like telling somebody your services are no longer needed or you have to take a pay cut, but I would if necessary.
Nearly every commercial business and a lot of government entities have made cuts. Just look at the recent decision by the county’s Board of Education. They implemented a 4.5 percent pay cut AND five furlough days. I did not see a mass exodus of employees.
There’s a mindset somewhere prevalent that if city employees had even the slightest pay cut, we’d see resignations left and right. It won’t happen!
Of course I respect our hardworking employees but finances are what they are. I am not in the business to protect city employees from the economic situation we’re so obviously in.
I know I will be outvoted 4-1 on nearly all my proposed budget amendments. But I will try. In the end I vote for what’s best for the city and our citizens. The budget will be approved and the new millage rate will be set. And finally, the city will be able to look forward to a stable financial future.
One last point. We will be voting on new budget guidance to remind us to never again get into a shortfall situation like we are now experiencing. In essence, if we want something more, we pay for it.
We will no longer look at the city reserves as “extra” money to spend to show the citizens how well we, the politicians, are serving you. The reserves over 20 percent will be committed to the huge shortfalls already identified for FYs ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15.
I’m saying this now because when the time comes and the proposed budgets for FYs ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15 include using reserves of $1.3 million, $2.3 million and $1.9 million respectively, we must remember we planned for this back in the summer of 2010.
City Council Post 1
Peachtree City, Ga.