PTC city manager urges tax increase to ease budget woes

Tue, 03/10/2009 - 4:45pm
By: John Munford

To help balance a projected $2.2 million shortfall in the 2009-2010 budget, Peachtree City officials will consider even more staff cuts in addition to a suspension of retirement plan contributions.

While City Manager Bernie McMullen has said the staff cuts would affect the developmental services division, at Saturday’s city council retreat Finance Director Paul Salvatore also referred to additional “reorganization” that could take place and a potential of outsourcing operations of the Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center.

Mayor Harold Logsdon also said he wanted to see options for across the board salary cuts, including cuts for himself and council members, who are due to have their salaries doubled from $6,000 a year to $12,000 a year. Logsdon’s position would go from $9,000 to $18,000 a year starting Jan. 1 should he be re-elected.

“I’ve got to walk down the street and look citizens in the eye and say I looked at all options,” Logsdon said.

Several department heads told council Saturday they were worried about employee morale given the cancellation of performance and cost of living raises next year, and last week’s approval of an increase in medical insurance premiums that will cost employees another $240 or $600 a year depending on their choice of individual or family coverage.

“My concern is we have a lot of talented people and if they feel we let them down then I’ll lose that,” said Police Chief Skip Clark.

Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth said his employees understand the ramifications of the economy on the city, but he reminded council that for years all city employees have been told more is expected of them because the city doesn’t hire as many employees as comparable cities.

Acting Developmental Services Director David Rast said cuts to his division would certainly change service levels. Building inspectors, for example, would not be able to perform inspections “at the drop of a hat,” Rast said.

Developmental services, already identified for staff cuts in the future, includes planning and zoning, code enforcement and building inspections among other duties.

Randy Gaddo, the head of the city’s leisure services division, said the library has already lost some part time employees after recent cuts to part-time employees’ benefits including vacation. To help out, some recreation staffers are pulling shifts at the library, Gaddo noted.

The city also took a dramatic step last week by requiring police officers to pay between $30 and $100 a month for their take-home vehicles if they live outside the city limits.

McMullen said he understood council members’ concerns about a property tax increase given the economy. But he is worried about deferring needed city improvements, as there is “basically nothing” left in the public improvement program after $972,000 in cuts.

McMullen said he was also worried about how budget cuts are affecting city employees, particularly in terms of benefits.

“I am concerned with how much we take out of the employees’ hide,” McMullen said. “Sooner or later we are going to reach a point where it’s going to affect morale and those type of things. ... We’ve got to keep the good employees that we have. So I guess I am making a plea for council to look at, not a large, but some form of a millage rate hike.”

Mayor Harold Logsdon said he was “very much reluctant” to approve a millage rate increase. He noted that city residents will already see an average property tax increase of $250 next year because state officials may not fund a program to offset the funds.

Former City Councilwoman Judi-ann Rutherford reminded the council that each one of them “was elected to make tough decisions.”

While there were few citizens at the meeting, Rutherford noted, “the other 35,000 expect you to do what’s right and they don’t think they have to be here. ... And what’s popular isn’t always what’s right.”

Resident Theo Scott, who serves on the city’s planning commission, said all city services have been reduced by recent changes, and he hoped council would at least consider a millage rate increase to fix that issue.

“Let’s take care of the people we have here,” Scott said.

Resident Robert Brown said he thinks city positions should be looked at in detail to determine where job cuts are appropriate, and in many cases the department directors are incapable of making such decisions, he added.

“I don’t want police and fire cut, but can we afford not to take a look at some inefficiencies in those departments?” Brown asked.

Just last month the city axed 23 landscaping and maintenance positions with intentions of replacing them with a private contractor. The predicted savings for that move is $840,000 though the city has yet to open bids for the service, and other tasks performed by those employees will have to be done by others or go undone, officials have said.

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Submitted by Dondol on Thu, 03/12/2009 - 1:42pm.

Maybe, just maybe Bernie and the good Mayor Otis Campbell can hire these people to take care of the grounds on all of those properties that they are rehabing.

Tell Me why in the Hell I have to dial 1 for ENGLISH!

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Thu, 03/12/2009 - 11:52am.

So you want to keep the good employees that you have. So am I to understand that the 23 were not "good" employees? Or that they were just expendable? What a load of crap!

Submitted by mysteryman on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 6:49pm.

Put your money where your mouth is council. Who will be first to give back their stipend.. Can you say Gratis.....I like the wat you say that....BLESS..

Submitted by h2otom on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 2:51pm.

The council used to be a " no pay " position. Go back to the way it used to be, and don't give us the line of noone qualified for the council will run with out being paid. This town has managed for over 40 years with "no pay" positions.
Council members, do the right thing, give up your pay....NOW !!!!!!!!1

Gene61's picture
Submitted by Gene61 on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 3:08am.

So where do you get this money when people are losing jobs and losing their homes? buggest problem with this county, when times are good, no one thinks to put some money away for a rainy day. So like the blood suckers most politicans are, they look to us for more. Tell ya what, raise the tax on stupidity, that would end our national debt worries as well!

Submitted by Arf on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 10:02pm.

Sorry, Bernie, a tax increase doesn't fit in my budget right now.

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