Public gets say on PTC budget

Fri, 07/17/2009 - 3:55pm
By: John Munford

Property tax increase proposed by city staff

The Peachtree City Council got public input Thursday night on the upcoming 2009-2010 budget.

The staff-recommended budget totals $26.3 million, nearly $300,000 less than the projected final spending amount for the current budget year. But the city will be considering a millage rate increase of .244 mills, which equates to an additional $24.40 on the property tax bill of a home valued at $250,000, officials said.

Mayor Harold Logsdon reiterated that he would rather the city use cash reserves to avoid a property tax increase. Doing so would deplete the cash reserves by $450,000 and reduce the city’s cash reserves from 35 percent of its annual budget to approximately 33 percent, City Finance Director Paul Salvatore has said.

Logsdon noted that city residents will already take a big hit on their tax bills this year because a grant unfunded by the state legislature will add roughly $280 to the local property tax bill of a home valued at $250,000.

“We can go another year before we have a millage increase,” Logsdon said. “So many of our citizens are without jobs or have taken cuts in salary.”

The budget includes just two additional full-time positions: a police detective to handle fraud-related crimes and another police officer, which will be funded for the last six months of the budget cycle.

The budget does not include any cost of living or merit raises for city employees. The cost of living raises would cost $286,000 and the merit increases would cost an estimated $489,000.

As a budget-saving measure, the police department has reduced its new patrol car request from eight to six. To replace the other two patrol cars, the city will enter a two-year lease on two motorcycles to be used for patrol, Clark said.

Among other budget cuts is a significant change at the city’s Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater. The summer concert series is being cut from two nights per artist to one, and the venue’s two employees will work 25 percent of their time on various tasks for the city, as 25 percent of their salary will come from the city’s general fund instead of the amphitheater budget.

The city has also pared $100,000 in costs from the Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center while implementing an estimated $200,000 in additional revenue for the facility, reducing the budget burden by $300,000 total, officials said.

The few residents who spoke credited city staff for their hard work on the budget.

Chris Lemay questioned whether the city should have added 21 public safety employees in the past three budget years, particularly in light of eliminating 23 public works employees earlier this year which had an affect on the city’s landscaping. The city replaced the employees this year with a contract service at an estimated savings of $940,000.

Local business owner Tim Lydell, who also lives in Peachtree City, suggested that the city look in the future at adjusting its benefits as a way to save money.

But Sue Memmer said she hoped the city would restore employees cost of living raises.

“They took a cut in their benefits and their pay” this year, Memmer said. She added that she realized that would probably increase her tax bill by an additional $25 a year but said she could forego eating out one night a month to compensate.

Scott Austenson questioned when the city was going to fund construction of a golf cart path along Robinson Road and Ga. Highway 54 east to link the city to the Peachtree East shopping center, anchored by a Publix grocery store.

Austenson said he and fellow homeowners in the Hyde Park subdivision were frustrated that the path has not yet been built even though it has been in the city’s cart path master plan for several years.

City Manager Bernie McMullen explained that the path construction was cut from the budget due to the economic downturn. He noted that new cart path construction funds may be included in the upcoming special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) vote up for citizens’ approval in November.

The SPLOST can only be authorized upon a vote by the Fayette County Commission, but the commission has appeared receptive to allowing a SPLOST to go on the November ballot.

login to post comments