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PTC postpones tax hike decision to study budget

The Peachtree City Council postponed setting property tax rates Thursday morning in an effort to find more cuts in the proposed $28.9 million budget.

City staff has recommended a millage rate increase of .372 to counteract what would otherwise be a $635,000 loss due to decreased property values, which dropped 5.13 percent from last year to this year.

Council is slated to weigh in on budget cuts at an Aug. 21 workshop.

At Thursday’s special called meeting, Councilman George Dienhart said he hoped to at least come up with budget cuts to avoid a tax increase this year.

Councilman Eric Imker warned that avoiding the staff-proposed tax increase would also short the $28.9 million budget by $635,000 not just this year but also the following year, and the city is also facing next year a need for an additional $1.5 million for road and cart path maintenance.

As such, Imker suggested that some $3 million would need to be cut including the road and cart path money.

Council also discussed briefly an ongoing suggestion from Mayor Don Haddix to conduct a needs assessment to help guide future budget cuts. Haddix said while such an initiative hasn’t been supported by other council members in the past, he will work on putting together a committee to handle the effort.

Councilwoman Kim Learnard said she appreciated Haddix wanting to look at every part of the city’s budget, adding that he has ideas that should be considered by council.

Haddix said he would not be able to put together a committee in time to provide input on the current budget but he will get the ball rolling on the effort anyway.

Imker said that citizens have provided “very minimal input” on this year’s budget because they trust council to make the budget decisions between necessities and niceties.

“That’s why they elected us, to make those decisions,” Imker said.

The proposed budget includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for city employees that was absent from the original budget proposed by Pennington.

The salary increases are expected to cost around $280,000.

In addition to the pay raises 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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