Police and fire may well escape cuts this year, but what about over the next three years? Has someone actually forecasted an end to our economic dilemma?
Taking another $86,000 from reserves, bringing the total to nearly half a million dollars from reserves to balance this year’s budget, are we avoiding the inevitable?
One of the things I’d hoped to see from this council was something on the order of a five-year plan that would take into account usage of reserve funds, reduction of personnel, either through attrition or a phased drawdown, an uptick of volunteer programs to reduce labor shortfalls, an inventory of “mandated” state or federal requirements that could go unfunded with proper notice, and finally an emphasis placed upon business development versus tourist attraction.
To come away without such direction in light of this city’s fiscal status is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound and not checking for the exit wound.
Two short years ago considerable verbiage was given to reducing or at least holding firm on the size of our police department. Then, the total was 53 souls and we were witnessing traffic stops with as many as three patrol cars behind a single culprit. Now with their number over 70, traffic will become more cumbersome with those extra police cruisers blocking lanes.
Fender-benders are to become major traffic backups should they occur during rush hour. I guess the new canine unit better prepares us for any more rogue juvenile bears that may decide to come back to our fair city. The cart path patrols on those “stealthy” green four wheelers are just flat out embarrassing, not to mention loud.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at least when you hire a firefighter you normally get an EMT; not so with a policeman. Should you or a family member be involved in a traffic accident, would you prefer someone that is adept at writing a ticket or someone who can administer immediate medical assistance? It seems to me that with an increase of some 20 people over the last two years and a shortfall of $128,000 in revenue, something ain’t right.
This year’s budget was the easy fix, but congratulations are in order that it got done with a four to one vote, a marked improvement over the previous council.
It’s the following years that concern me. Using reserve funds to balance the budgets in the out years will pose substantial consequences, like a reduction in the city’s bond rating, which will simply increase our burden on current and future debt.
Without a serious turnaround in the state of our economy, Peachtree City simply cannot maintain 100 percent of its labor force. To begin budget deliberations at 100 percent of the previous year’s numbers to me is ludicrous.
Has anyone really looked at a prioritization of service provided by our city staff? Can anyone state with conviction that we must have all they do in order to maintain our quality of life? How many folks does it take to man the Gathering Place? The Kedron Aquatic Center? The Amphitheater? Have we discussed using volunteers?
Now should the entire shortfall in these out years be funded entirely through property taxes, the average homeowner would see an increase of some $250-$300 per year.
Many would decry that it is not worth the angst objecting to it, but would those same folks agree to their children and grandchildren paying 10 times that amount annually some 20 years hence? Is that not where we are headed?
My point is simple, fix the malignancy now before it becomes life-threatening.
Michael L. “Mike” King
Peachtree City, Ga.
[King was a candidate for the Post 2 council seat in 2007.]