PTC seeks public input on proposed $28.3 million budget

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 4:45pm
By: John Munford

Peachtree City’s proposed $28.36 million budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year will be the subject of a public hearing at Thursday night’s City Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

The budget does not include a tax millage rate increase, but it will amount to a property tax increase for homeowners and business owners whose property tax assessments increased this year.

The city plans to spend down its cash reserves, using $852,000 to balance the budget, down from about $1.2 million. That will still leave the city with a healthy cash reserve on hand for emergencies, officials have said.

The general fund budget represents a 9.25 percent increase from last year and includes three new full-time police officers, six new firefighters (and part-time personnel to cover their vacation and time off), an accounting manager and a one-year contract for a full-time assistant city planner.

Also, the city’s public works department will be able to hire a building maintenance specialist once several positions are eliminated through attrition; that required no associated increase in the public works budget.

The six new firefighters will add two firefighters per shift, and the city is hopeful the new staffing will allow the city’s ISO rating to be dropped, which would result in homeowner’s insurance savings for residents.

The three new police positions are being added to patrol the city’s cart paths, but Police Chief James Murray said he won’t be able to assign officers to that beat until his department gets up to a full staffing level. Once five officers currently at police academy are hired, the department will still have several open positions and several other officers are planning to leave, Murray has said.

The number of expected police vacancies is such that city officials cut another $292,000 out of the budget, though that figure includes expected vacancies from all city departments.

In a bid to recruit more police officers, the city is also budgeting a 4.5 percent hike to the starting pay for police officers and corporals, though that figure is well short of the initial raises sought by Murray. In previous budget meetings, council has discussed the possibility of phasing in additional increases by evaluating the issue each year.

Murray has said that the city’s low starting salary is a significant reason potential recruits are bypassing Peachtree City to join other agencies that offer a more attractive pay scale.

The accounting position was needed to handle additional requirements brought forth by new accounting regulations, city officials have said.

The one-year contract for an assistant city planner was devised after several council members expressed problems with hiring a person for the position since the city is reaching the build-out level. But city officials said there is a backlog of work in the planning department and the hope is that making the part-time assistant planner full-time for a year will help eliminate the backlog.

The city has been without a second full-time accredited city planner since November 2005, when then-Director of Developmental Services Clyde Stricklin resigned. The city moved Assistant City Manager Colin Halterman into the position, but he lacks a city planning accreditation, leaving City Planner David Rast as the only employee with that expertise.

login to post comments