Mayor: Honest differences of opinion exist about budget solutions
After reading the articles on Council’s recent meeting and workshop, you can see we have been busy but not without controversy.
Council agreed 5-0 to increasing grass cutting on secondary roads from every 10 weeks to every month. We also added 73 previously uncut areas.
Councilman Imker’s proposals for a 1 percent pay cut, reducing retirement benefits and mandatory furloughs were rejected 4-1.
After two of us voting to eliminate 27 jobs, cut benefits, increase contribution requirements and freezing wages last year, the lack of stomach comment by Councilman Imker was unjustified.
We all agreed with Councilman Sturbaum’s proposal to allow voluntary unpaid furlough days.
Councilman Sturbaum’s and my proposal to increase Development Authority funding from $35,000 to $150,000 was rejected by Council members Fleisch, Learnard and Imker. Their reasoning was we cannot afford it and there are higher priorities. They also claimed staff and the county Development Authority can do the work.
Our reasoning was we cannot afford not to do it. The county does not nor will do job retention and recruitment of small business and industry within any city. They do not seek out good jobs but wait for them to come to them, and they do not have to put them in Peachtree City.
The comment of wait and see what the new FCDA president [will do] lacks merit. The FCDA Board of Directors and the County Commissioners set policies and the president carries them out.
That is not a criticism but the reality of how they operate within their budget with one person working in the office and one in the field. They can only do so much.
DAPC, Councilman Sturbaum and I have developed a good relationship with the FCDA Board and have no intention of doing anything to damage it.
As well, the new census tract incentives are reviewed every year and no acceptable performance means their loss. That would be a serious setback.
There are many areas where the state and other agencies go directly to the cities because they are outside the authority of county governments.
We even provided the other council members with the state law and comments from DCA and others on the matter telling them they are wrong. As well, Councilman Sturbaum and I have been working on development for two and a half years now, so we have good working knowledge of the realities. They simply do not.
The majority’s position is the same position of the majority of the last four years. That failed policy resulted in no growth generated by Peachtree City except retail and home construction we did not need.
If the county could and did do it all there would be no Main Street, which is a Downtown Development Authority in Fayetteville, and DAPC in Peachtree City. There simply would be no need.
That ultimately ended with Councilman Sturbaum and my saying no DAPC funding means a no vote on the budget and millage. It is that critical in our minds.
Without a vision for economic growth, new revenues equals increased taxes. That is a fiscally unsound policy that is not sustainable nor wanted.
On the millage rate, Councilman Imker proposed a 1.25 mill tax increase, but refused to say he would actually vote for it, which would be a tremendous reversal of what he campaigned and has stood firm on up to that workshop.
Councilwoman Learnard said she would vote for it and Councilwoman Fleisch said she probably would vote for it. Councilman Sturbaum and I said we would not vote for more than a .5 mill for the general fund spending items we had all agreed upon, with the remaining coming from the reserve.
There are very honest differences of reasoning on the rates. We all agree we need a long-term solution, which I see not existing by just increasing taxes.
As I said last year we have to change our thinking and priorities. We cannot keep looking at just the here and now needs like grass-cutting.
We must look for new avenues of income, development and redevelopment. That demands an active and funded DAPC.
[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009, Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]