For the entire calendar year, Peachtree City’s staff created a budget they felt followed the direction of the City Council.
But Thursday night, the budget got eviscerated by Councilman Eric Imker in a presentation that contained elements of a preacher and a statistician urging his fellow council members to stave off the tax hike.
“Now we face another tax increase proposed at 1 mill. It’s time we live within our means. As we all know, once a tax goes up it will never come down. It will only stay the same, or go up even further in the future with all sorts of political rationale behind it to convince you the world will fall apart if its not done,” he said.
Imker’s presentation featured four Power Point slides, along with 37 Excel spread sheets and lasted more than an hour spreading his message of fiscal conservatism.
Ultimately, the City Council voted 3-2, with Mayor Vanessa Fleisch and Councilman Terry Ernst opposing, to maintain the current millage rate at 6.756 and the current bond rate of .0332 and incorporate elements of Imker’s plan into a new budget, including an “inverse scaled” pay raise of 2 percent. The pay raise give workers at the low end of the pay scale slightly over a 5 percent pay raise, while the higher paid employees would receive a .019 raise.
Another item that will find its way into the new budget is an alternative means for mowing and landscaping. The city originally proposed hiring 22 workers to bring the work back in house, but Imker urged a different way.
He said the city needs to a award a new right of way mowing contract to include a longer season and more frequency. He also said the city should just hire 12 employees, which includes six that were already hired in the previous year. By using this approach, he estimates the city could save $70,000 in equipment costs.
The biggest item Imker slashed was a proposed $720,000 increase in road maintenance and said the current budgeted amount of $770,000 should be focused on neighborhood streets since previous year’s funds went to big-ticket projects such as Dividend Drive and Crosstown Road.
He also asked that purchases at the library be cut and the city postpone the purchase of five new police cars.
As the clock struck nearly 11, the City Council agreed to many of Imker’s proposals for the budget. In his presentation, Imker said the budget would slightly increase from $29.4 million this fiscal year to $30.3 million in fiscal year 2015. His budget proposal also includes $394,397 from reserves, instead of the proposed $210,427 by staff.
The city’s staff was stunned by the turn of events and finance director Paul Salvatore said it was a “last minute turn of events.”
Salvatore added it would take the staff some time to incorporate many of Imker’s recommendations into the budget, since Imker rounded off many of his figures.
The city must have a budget approved by October.
— Reporting by JOHN THOMPSON
EARLIER ONLINE VERSION —
By JOHN THOMPSON
In a stunning reversal of of fortune for Peachtree City taxpayers Thursday night, the Peachtree City Council voted to keep the millage rate the same and told the staff to go back and hit the drawing board for a new budget.
The surprising move came after a nearly one hour long presentation from Councilman Eric Imker that featured a Power Point presentation and 37 Excel charts. Imker beseeched the City Council to look at things differently, including a salary increase that will amount to a 2 percent overall raise, but reward those at the lower end of the pay scale with more than a 5 percent raise, while those employees in the upper brackets would receive slightly more than I percent.
For more information on Imker’s successful crusade, read Saturday’s weekend edition of The Citizen and next Wednesday’s Citizen.