The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Friday, July 30, 1999
Mayor suggests city not getting its
money's worth from county

Staff Writer

Peachtree City residents are not getting out of the county budget what they put into it — at least that's the way some city officials see it.

The topic came up at last week's city budget hearing, where Mayor Bob Lenox said that a gap of about $2.5 million per year exists between what city residents pay in county taxes and the services they receive.

Lenox's comments are similar to Tyrone Councilman Ronnie Cannon's remarks last month. Cannon complained that Tyrone's residents also are receiving less than their share of county services.

“That's equal to a fire station with all the equipment each year,” he said. “That's a community center a year.”

The matter came out of a discussion of establishing a city policy for handling requests from nonprofit organization that seek funding.

Councilman Jim Pace said he believes countywide organizations should get their funding at the county level.

One example cited in the discussion was Beautiful Fayette, which was reportedly requesting $25,000 from Fayette County and $16,000 or so from the city. That amounts to city residents paying twice, according to some city officials.

Lenox said that the unequal return in county services flies directly in the face of House Bill 489, which he stated requires the appropriate amount of services rendered for revenue received.

Lenox told The Citizen in an interview this week that these comments were the result of a great deal of study and research into city and county budget and tax figures.

This particular issue was not covered in recent HB 489 discussions, and he hopes to bring it up again sometime in the future.

“We worked through the HB 489 stuff to meet the [state-imposed] deadline,” he said. “But we put off most of the harder decisions.”

But he added that HB 489 is essentially a continuous process, and the city is continuing to study the issue and hopefully find a way to cut into the budget gap.

The two main goals of HB 489, as the mayor sees it, are “to foster overall economy, and make sure whoever pays for services gets those services.”

At first glance, it could appear that the issue of taxes and services is a simple one of dollars and cents.

“There are essentially two sides,” said Lenox. “Revenue and expense.”

But while the revenue the county receives from Peachtree City residents is fairly cut and dried, how much is gotten back in the form of county services can be a bit more of a gray area, with room for discussion and even some haggling over figures, Lenox admits.

“There are obviously some judgment calls, and that's the area where we've got to talk about it,” he said.

Lenox said that in his analysis of these figures, he has tried to give the county the benefit of the doubt in every instance, so that if there is an error, he believes it would be in the county's favor.

But, even if his $2.5 million figure were off by as much as $1 million in the other direction, “that's a lot of money,” he said.

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