Imker remains non-committal on PTC tax hike
There was a public hearing Thursday night on Peachtree City’s millage rate, but it didn’t lead to any more clarity on what the city’s property tax rate will be for next year.
While most of the discussion Thursday night was spent on how much to fund the city’s development authority, the nearly one hour hearing ended without the City Council resolving an impasse on the millage rate.
So far there are two votes on council for a 1.25 mill increase, another two for a .5 mill increase, and a fifth council member, Eric Imker, continues to play his cards close to the vest and has not committed to any millage rate increase.
Councilwomen Kim Learnard and Vanessa Fleisch have supported the 1.25 mill increase which would result in a $108 a year increase on a home valued at $272,000.
Mayor Don Haddix and Councilman Doug Sturbaum have said they prefer a more austere .5 mill increase which would result in a $43 a year increase on that same $272,000 home.
The 1.25 mill increase would eat away at more than half of a projected $18 million shortfall over the next five years. Most of the shortfall is blamed on the end of the funding from the city’s share of the recently-expired countywide transportation sales tax and the likely lower take the city will have in the future from regular sales tax revenues because other areas in the county will grow more compared to the city population wise.
Those sales tax revenues are calculated based on each jurisdictions share of the county’s overall population.
A final decision from council on the millage rate is expected in a formal vote in several weeks. After Thursday’s council meeting, Imker told The Citizen he remains “on the fence” about the millage rate.
Almost the entire hearing was devoted to discussion of another council budget impasse. Haddix and Sturbaum have said they would not approve any budget that does not include $150,000 in funding for the city’s development authority, up from the current $30,000 funding level.
Sturbaum and Haddix said they want the authority to have the money to hire an economic development executive director to help the all volunteer authority lure business and industry here while also working to retain such ventures.
A counter proposal from Fleisch, Imker and Learnard would instead have the city hire that director. While Haddix challenged the legality of such an arrangement, City Attorney Ted Meeker said it would be legal for the city to hire an employee who would answer to the wishes of the development authority.
Sturbaum made a fact-laden powerpoint presentation to the audience, explaining that he wanted the authority to be able to pursue leads on 19 different companies connected to the Sany heavy equipment company whose headquarters is under construction on the southern end of the industrial park. Sturbaum also said he wanted the authority to pursue federal funds to clean up contamination at the former Photocircuits site in the city’s industrial park.
Sturbaum said the authority is also important in keeping local industries here, and he noted that one such entity in the city could potentially be relocating elsewhere, with the potential of local jobs lost.
Sturbaum contended that bringing workers to the city helps the local retail economy and also the residential housing market.
An audience member asked Sturbaum why he didn’t support hiring the DAPC staffer as a city employee. He responded that he questioned the legality of the concept, and he thinks the DAPC needs someone who has certification as an economic developer.
Development Authority member Grey Durham said the volunteer authority members are stretched thin as they make strides in working with local retailers to help beef up their business. He encouraged the city to appropriately fund the authority.
“We are terribly underfunded,” Durham said. “... I thought council ought to look at it like we’re making an investment in the future to bring in new businesses. Our board is overworked and we can only maintain that for a period of time.”
Durham said not increasing the authority’s budget “would be a draconian mistake.”
The hearing ended abruptly when Imker moved for it to be closed. His motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Fleisch and Learnard voting in favor with Imker and Sturbaum and Haddix voting against.
Imker said he felt the hearing should end because the same information was being rehashed over and over again.
Immediately before Imker’s motion to adjourn, Haddix asked why there was a move afoot to have a city employee hired whose duties would be split between the city and the development authority.
The question went unanswered.