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PTC budget a work in progress, millage rate to be rolled up

The Peachtree City Council may be looking at further cuts to its budget in coming weeks but the plan for now is to “roll up” the millage rate to counteract a potential $635,000 loss due to declining property values.

The $28.9 million budget was discussed by council Thursday night but they are not done with massaging it, with a future workshop to be scheduled in coming weeks.

Councilman Eric Imker said he needed additional time to meet with city directors and chiefs to talk about further budget cuts.

City Finance Director Paul Salvatore said the millage rate rollup was needed to counteract a projected $300,000 decline in local sales taxes due to renegotiations with the county and other municipalities, the exhausting of the remaining $2 million in transportation sales tax funds and the 5.13 percent decline in property values citywide, which translates to the $635,000 anticipated loss.

If the city doesn’t “roll up” the millage rate to account for the $635,000 loss, that loss will be felt in future budgets as well, Salvatore noted.

The latest budget recommended by City Manager Jim Pennington includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for city employees. Pennington urged the $280,000 expenditure because city employees have gone without raises for several years but they are the most important asset the city has.

During the public hearing, resident Joe Bowler suggested offering the payments as a bonus instead to minimize costs to the city. Bowler said as a recent retiree from Clayton State University he hadn’t received any pay increases over the past four to five years.

Resident Kim Westwood suggested the city reconsider a previous vote from earlier in the meeting to not sell a small piece of greenbelt to a resident who wanted to increase the size of his backyard. That way residents could buy additional land to use for pools or a tennis court for example, Westwood said.

Council voted against selling the greenspace for fear it would create a precedent that would result in the city being unable to protect its greenbelt.

In addition to the COLA for employees, the budget also includes a full-time civilian evidence custodian for the police department, two part-time bailiffs to free up officers for patrol during municipal court days and a second motorcycle unit in place of a patrol car purchase, Salvatore said. The budget also includes six new part-time maintenance technicians and improved capital equipment for the public works department, he added.

Also included are funds for a new police records management software program, an improved surveillance system and a new fingerprinting system, Salvatore said.

The budget uses $834,000 of the city’s reserves to balance the year-end total, but that is part of a planned three-year spending down of the reserves to the 20 percent level. The reserves in recent years had nearly doubled that mark, rising beyond 38 percent.

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