PTC staff: hike now pays off in long run
If Peachtree City enacts a 1.25 mill increase in its property tax rates this year, the city’s millage rate will end up better off after five years than if the City Council adopts the alternative .5 mill increase, according to city staff.
The 1.25 mill increase would leave the city’s millage rate at 7.168 mills in 2015. But the .50 mill increase, which would necessitate increases of .566 mills each of the following four years to raise the same amount of money, would leave the city’s millage rate at 7.898 to raise the same amount of money, according to Finance Director Paul Salvatore.
Salvatore shared the data as part of Thursday’s budget workshop with council. His figures included the city spending down part of its cash reserve, which would get no lower than 20 percent of the total annual budget expenditures as required by current city policy.
Mayor Don Haddix and Councilman Doug Sturbaum have said they would support a .5 mill increase, while council members Kim Learnard, Vanessa Fleisch and Eric Imker previously said they want to see numbers on a 1.25 millage rate increase.
The 1.25 mills would result in a $108 increase on the tax bill of a home valued at $272,000. The .5 mill mark would result in a $43 increase on the same home.
In an attempt to solve an impasse over funding for the Development Authority of Peachtree City, Learnard suggested the city could afford to hire a part-time staffer to help with the authority’s workload.
Learnard and council members Eric Imker and Vanessa Fleisch previously have opposed a plan for the DAPC to be given $150,000 instead of its current annual $35,000 budget. Hiring a part-time staffer instead, Learnard argued, would help the all-volunteer authority with much of its mission.
Mayor Don Haddix, who supports the $150,000 funding for DAPC, said he thought it was illegal for the city to pay a staffer to handle development authority functions. However, Learnard said other cities are doing it and she has won clearance for the concept from City Attorney Ted Meeker.
Haddix, who said several times that he thought such an arrangement was illegal, ultimately agreed to look into the matter further, and city staff will be getting the job descriptions from other cities who employ staff to handle development authority functions.
Haddix and Councilman Doug Sturbaum both have said they would not vote for any budget that doesn’t include $150,000 funding for DAPC.
The development authority has taken on more of a business recruiting function in recent years, also focusing on working with existing industries and helping buttress merchants at several of the city’s shopping centers.
The authority most recently was credited with helping lure The Fresh Market upscale grocery, which has signed a letter of intent to set up shop at the Peachtree Crossing shopping center at Ga. Highway 54 and Peachtree Parkway. Fresh Market will be using about half of the space that was vacated by the Kroger Company when it closed its operation last year.
Also at Thursday’s budget meeting Councilman Eric Imker ran though a detailed brief rundown of the non-personnel spending in the city’s police, fire, recreation and public works departments. He said his study of those expenditures showed the city was being run very efficiently.
“I’m impressed with where our dollars are going,” Imker said, adding that he wanted the public to see the review of non-personnel spending also. “I wanted the public to see this because I am very convinced we are executing a very efficient operation here.”
Imker also suggested the city adopt a special “budget guidance” for future councils that would tie employee raises to revenue increases. Imker noted that some 60 percent of the budget is for salaries, so the city can’t afford to keep giving raises to employees, and particularly if the city’s growth plateaus as expected.
City Manager Bernie McMullen said his main worry was if the economy took another downturn that such a policy would leave future councils looking at salaries as the first place to cut. He also said the policy would put a good bit of pressure on the city’s finance staff to make more aggressive revenue forecasts.
Imker said his main hope was to have future political candidates have to answer to the public on whether they supported the concept of avoiding raises for city staff when revenues are down.