Mayor’s advisory group starts study of PTC’s service priorities

A committee made up of Peachtree City citizens met Thursday to discuss and prioritize services the city provides. Photo/John Munford.

A citizen committee that will examine and prioritize services provided by Peachtree City hit the ground running Thursday.

One of the reasons the needs assessment committee was created by Mayor Don Haddix is to determine what service cuts, if any, would be tolerated by citizens in order to rein in the city budget.

The committee’s main goal is a bit more specific: to provide a recommended millage rate and/or taxing level along with “an unbiased prioritization of services” for council to consider.
The committee will have access to city staff members to answer questions about spending for particular services, and they are empowered to request information from the city as well.

For starters, the committee will be provided with email links to the online budget documents for the past several years.

In regards to services, Haddix noted that among cities of similar populations in Georgia, Peachtree City pays the most for recreation, at “240 percent the amount of recreation of any other comparable city.”

“We are way, way ahead of everybody else on recreation,” Haddix said, noting that support for city amenities has often come from the standpoint of helping to maintain property values.

Despite his comments about recreation and other budgetary matters, Haddix emphasized that he wanted the committee to come to its own unbiased conclusion at the end of the process. He also made it clear that he is hoping for the process to be driven in part by citizen input, most likely from a survey.

Haddix noted that in recent surveys undertaken by the city, the questions were written in a manner to achieve a certain result, and he hopes to avoid such a problem with a new survey.

Eight of the 12 committee members were present at the meeting, including residents Paul Lentz, Steve Hamlin, Jack Joiner, Allen Baldwin, Robert Black, Phil Prebor, Josh Bloom and Terrence Manning. Committee members unable to make it to the first meeting include Lavada Zahir, John Dufresne, Bob Comeau and Kelcie Daniels.

One of the overarching goals or intents of the committee is to provide and receive information from other citizens.

In addition to looking at services funded by the city’s general fund budget, the committee will also be examining services covered by fees such as stormwater and building permits. It was also noted that while property taxes are a significant source of the city’s general fund, so are sales taxes.

Lentz noted that he often hears the explanation that the choice is to “raise taxes or reduce services,” but he feels that isn’t necessarily the case.

“We’ve heard for years and years that if we don’t give the police another car there will be mobs in the streets with torches and pitchforks,” Lentz said. “We’ve heard if we don’t get another fire truck we will lose our rating and fire insurance will go up throughout the city. We’ve heard these things for years and years and they aren’t necessarily true.”

Black pointed out that the committee should “avoid overstating cases” without providing facts on which its conclusions are drawn.

The committee’s next meeting has not been set, but will be announced by the city and all the meetings are open to the public, officials said.

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This committees main goal is to provide a recommended millage rate and/or taxing level along with an unbiased prioritization of services for council to consider. The committee will also examine services covered by the general fund and fees such as stormwater and building permits.

The committee members will have access to city staff and will be provided links to budget documents.

2/3rds of the committee memebers attended the first session and the next meeting has not been scheduled.

Mayor Haddix noted that he wanted the committee to form unbiased conclusions and that past surveys were written to acheive a certain results. He then noted that the PTC recreation budget for example is at 240% the amount of any comparable city.

This committee was formed by the Mayor to make assessments in regards to potential service cuts. Cuts the mayor was illprepared or scared to propose on his own at city budget meetings. With mayoral elections coming up next year, this forum if successful, provides the mayor with ideas formed by others. If unsuccessful in providing cuts, the mayor will be able to say that the respresentatives on the committee choose to keep certain amenities and that is why we have a tax increase.

Now, Mr. Mayor, please provide the people with the full plan and timeline so that we can monitor progress.

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