PTC Council trims budget; can’t avoid tax hike

Thu, 06/22/2006 - 4:05pm
By: John Munford

Staff shrinks use of cash reserve

Peachtree City’s proposed budget now has three new police officers and three new firefighting positions after the latest budget workshop Wednesday night.

Council also reduced the projected millage rate increase to .25 mills by adjusting the cost of those positions based on the dates the new personnel could be hired. It takes the fire department about two months to fill a position and the police department will not be able to start any new recruits until January.

A .25 mill increase would cost about $20 a year for a home valued at $200,000, officials said. Before the reductions at Wednesday’s meeting, that figure was at $27.20.

The city is also reworking its pay for performance system that gives raises to employees based on their annual evaluations.

Council has thrown out a recommendation from City Manager Bernie McMullen to limit the number of persons getting the highest rankings, and thus the highest raises, to 25 percent. City employees have howled over this change, coupled with the addition of each employee having to pay 25 percent of their medical premiums.

Police Chief James Murray urged Council to consider how employee pay and benefit changes would affect some of the lowest paid employees, including those in the public works and recreation departments.

“These are the people who are going to suffer, not the management,” Murray said, noting that the city wants to have good employees and yet won’t pay them enough to be able to afford to live in Peachtree City.”

Murray said he would forego the payment earmarked to his executive retirement package this year because he didn’t feel it was right to accept the money when some of his employees are having trouble making a living. He also noted that the city underfunds its police department markedly when compared to other cities of similar size.

At another point in the meeting, Mayor Harold Logsdon said he was looking to reduce or eliminate the city’s use of reserve funds to balance the budget.

“It really boils down to deficit spending,” Logsdon said.

City staff has trimmed the original $800,000 cash reserve funds projected for the budget, noted FInance Director Paul Salvatore. Staff is recommending to apply the $150,000 payment from Fayette County for recreation directly to the recreation department’s budget. Traditionally those funds have been used for capital improvements and this year they paid for restrooms at the new McIntosh Trail complex that are open during park hours only.

Future restrooms were planned but now those are on hold, officials said.

The use of cash reserves in the budget was cut further by $300,000 by moving the projected drainage improvements for the city’s tennis center to the city’s stormwater capital improvement program. That means the project will be funded by the $3 million bond that will be sought by the city to finance projects considered the most urgent by city staff.

Councilwoman Judi-ann Rutherford asked if that meant that $300,000 in other worthy stormwater projects might go undone. City Manager Bernie McMullen replied that the city attorney has indicated that the city will not legally be able to do some of the projects that were on the city’s initial list of capital stormwater projects.

The budget also includes matching grant funds to hire up to six additional firefighters should a grant come through for the city.

Councilman Steve Boone said he would like to eliminate the three new police positions this year because the Target store, cited as one of the reasons for the needed personnel, was not online yet; it is due to open next month.

Murray said he would then be looking at taking his DARE and school resource officers off their posts and putting them back on patrol, and doing the same with the part-time officer who has been working the online child protection investigations.

Last month the department’s response time to calls increased to more than six minutes, and that’s not good enough, Murray said.

Despite a plea from the Peachtree City Senior Adult Council, the City Council did not decide to add back $50,000 into the budget for the design of an expansion to The Gathering Place, a city building that hosts numerous programs for seniors. Those funds have been pushed to next year because city officials want to determine how the new community center planned by First Baptist Church might affect available space, perhaps reducing or eliminating the need to expand The Gathering Place. Council has postponed construction until at 2008.

Jim Schirm of the Senior Adult Council said the building is utilized 86 percent of the time it’s open, and the only open hours are either very early in the morning or later in the afternoon. He also noted that the city’s senior population is only going to grow, and some seniors are worried the church may not look favorably on the programs they utilize at The Gathering Place.

The church has pledged that if the community center is built, it would have an employee work out scheduling issues with the recreation department so the community center could host programs offered by the recreation department.

Schirm said the Senior Adult Council has formed a committee to look into getting grant funding for the facility. Although the county is getting a new senior citizens center, it will be located in Fayetteville and transportation is a major concern. Many Gathering Place patrons drive their golf carts to attend programs there, Schirm said.

Many seniors who patronize the Gathering Place are disappointed because the project has been on and off the backburner for several years, and in the meantime the city has grown its athletic recreation offerings.

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Submitted by Firedup on Sat, 06/24/2006 - 11:53am.

The retaliation begins – I understand, during last Wednesday’s budget hearings Councilman Steve Boone requested that the other city council members cut three new police officer positions from the police department’s budget. I checked on this and found out that the P.D.had requested these positions to supplement zone coverage in Kedron Village, where Target Shopping Center is located and where other major developments are being planned west if 74. Several other officer positions were requested to help patrol the city’s 90 miles of paths and to combat the city’s drug problems, among other things. Although most of the requested positions were put on hold, which may be fine, these three remained in the budget. I just can’t believe that Mr. Boone tried to cut them out! Thank goodness the other council members did not fall for Boone’s sneaky shenanigans. This would certainly tie the hands of the police department (maybe Mr. Boone knew this). Mr. Boone’s logic apparently centered around the Target Shopping Center. The store hadn’t opened yet, so he believed the three new officers should be postponed. This would be a convenient excuse, except that the Target Store will open very shortly, certainly before the 2007 Budget takes effect. Upon hearing about this, I was concerned but not surprised. Could Mr. Boone be bias against the police department for the City Manager's arrest or playing closed door politics with a few of his drinking buddies. Could he be conspiring with the city manager to get back at the police department? “Here’s yur sign police department”, you should probably consider getting a good attorney.

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Submitted by PTC Guy on Sat, 06/24/2006 - 12:06pm.

Cook the phrase anyway one wants, but when the city hits the employees with a 25% contribution to the insurance that is a pay cut.

Keeping it real and to the core of the issue, not the peripherals.

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