Mayor: 'Fund development authority'
As stated in The Citizen, the budget workshops have been challenging.
At the July 8 budget workshop one big question was the millage rate. We are looking at a 1.25 or 0.5 increase. I do not know where everyone stands except for a solid two [votes] for a 0.5 mill increase and one [vote] for 1.25.
I do know the staff proposal has five consecutive years of tax increases and that a council member who opposed any tax increase proposed the 1.25.
I do not like trying to justify a big tax increase by saying the total tax bill is going down. We are not responsible for the school, state or county portions. We cannot say the county will not do a large tax increase next year. We need to justify the increase in the Peachtree City portion.
The second issue is funding our Development Authority.
For some history there was the huge fiasco of the old Development Authority. Those days are gone and are not going to return due to the safety mechanisms now in place.
Under [former Mayor Harold] Logsdon there was consideration of dissolving the authority, which didn’t happen because of the special powers and abilities they possess that government does not. So DAPC was put on the shelf, so to speak.
In 2007 I ran, in part, on the need to get good paying jobs into Peachtree City because the old commuter-based city thinking was unsustainable.
So, in 2008 I took on the task of getting DAPC active, much to the frustration of the council majority. There was an attempt made to remove the DAPC chairman from the county board and replace him with the city manager. That was an attempt to give staff control of DAPC. It failed, as it should.
That was followed up by efforts to shift DAPC responsibilities and powers to staff by adding a community development coordinator position to staff. The position is still there and is working with DAPC effectively but the effort to take control failed because it was illegal for staff to have such authority.
With more successes by DAPC the effort to increase funding in 2009 was answered with what a great job they were doing but no increase in funding. The majority wanted the county to handle development issues and just let DAPC deal with local retail concerns.
The old policy of minimizing DAPC, maximizing staff and letting the Fayette County Development Authority handle development proved to be a failure, not because FCDA does a bad job, but because they are operating within their own budget constraints that simply do not allow them to actively seek out jobs. They can only deal with opportunities that come to them, at which they actually do a good job.
Further, the notion that all development opportunities go to the county and all agencies only deal with the county is simply false. Many opportunities are brought directly to cities, meaning they have to have a development authority in place to handle them.
In the 2009 election, all candidates stated they backed DAPC and we needed jobs here. But now that we are in the budget process, three have embraced the position and approach of the last council, which has already proven a failure.
In the last workshop Councilwoman [Kim] Learnard presented and proposed the Alpharetta model for a community development coordinator, which she obtained from the city manager, but no increased DAPC funding. When challenged it was illegal for a coordinator to manage a development authority, she stated our city attorney said it was legal, so i instructed the city manager to get a legal position from our attorney.
Our attorney rejected the notion that a coordinator could exercise any control over or hold any power of a development authority.
In doing my own research Alpharetta has no development authority [that] one can find via any online search of their city website or general search of the Internet.
Further, in the list of cities with a coordinator, again provided by the city manager, none make the slightest hint of claiming control over an actual development authority or the ability to exercise any of their power. They function as a clearing house pointing requests for commercial retail and office space within the city to property owners and agents.
For industrial, including incentives, etc, most of the cities with a coordinator have a fully independent development authority to which one must go.
As the city attorney agreed, a coordinator can work with DAPC but cannot control DAPC. DAPC needs its own staff member, who can have an arrangement like Nancy Price has, meaning a city employee for the Fred but a tourism employee for Tourism. But she cannot be a city employee filling the role of the tourism director.
Reality here is hiring yet another coordinator is actually hiring another city employee to do city work.
We were elected to change how our government did its job. All candidates last year stated support for DAPC and the need for jobs in Peachtree City. Reverting to the failed policy of the last four years is not change.
Staff and DAPC need to work together, but to do its job DAPC needs its own funding and staff person to see it through. DAPC is looking to use at least $100,000 of the $150,000 proposed for proactively seeking jobs for Peachtree City and redevelopment, not salaries.
For three years there has been no component of the city manager’s proposed Budget for job growth, only tax increases. For the last two years the council majority has had no vision for our future economic development.
A five year plan has been stressed in our budget workshops. There is no economic vision for growth in that plan to date, which makes it an unacceptable plan when only looking to tax increases for new income.
We must have a vision for the future and a way for it to be achieved.
[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009. Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is email@example.com.]