Facing a $621,000 shortfall for the rest of the current budget year, the Peachtree City Council agreed Saturday to a laundry list of cuts
that will affect a variety of areas from the Fourth of July fireworks ($5,000) to new books at the city library ($20,000).
Council resisted, however, elimination of a vacant patrol position with the police department and of $25,000 in overtime and part-time pay at the fire department.
The police cut would have kept the department one person short in the patrol division, according to Police Chief Skip Clark.
The fire cuts would have reduced from 19 personnel to 18 personnel when employees took sick leave or vacation time when that budget fund ran dry at the end of the fiscal year, said Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth.
Leaving in the police and fire funds will cost the city $43,000 that must be made up elsewhere. But other positions in the city will remain vacant to provide a good portion of the $399,000 in departmental savings.
“Safety is ‘you don’t touch it’ to me,” said Mayor Don Haddix, echoing the collective sentiment of council to avoid the personnel cuts in the police and fire departments.
City Manager Bernie McMullen noted that in last year’s staffing cuts, other departments were cut instead of public safety.
“We are at a point now where I feel like we need to start at least for this year doing things more across the board,” McMullen said.
The city is still projected to use an additional $86,000 in cash reserves on top of the $451,000 of already-budgeted cash reserve usage. The city must maintain a minimum of 20 percent of its annual budget as cash reserves but the current figures are at 32 percent currently.
Still, City Finance Director Paul Salvatore has warned that frequent use of cash reserves could cause trouble in the city’s near future.
Among the spending cuts were the acquisition of two motorcycles ($13,000) and a golf cart for the police department ($9,300). The motorcycles themselves were brought forth last year as an idea to avoid replacing two patrol vehicles.
Also among the cuts were a host of line items that were axed, including:
• One less issue of the Update newsletter, which is printed and mailed to all residents ($6,000);
• A van insert for the police department so male and female prisoners could be transported in the same vehicle with separate compartments for each ($9,500)
• A reduction in funds for the mayor and council of $8,660;
• Audit savings ($15,500);
• A number of items from leisure services ($29,700 total) including benches and tables, the painting of the interior at the Glenloch recreation building, the reduction of field dressing and sod, and the goose relocation program.
“Pretty sad. Pretty sobering isn’t it?” said Councilwoman Kim Learnard, who said she was especially concerned with the punting of maintenance items further down the road.
The worst shortfall this year comes from recreation program fees, which are down by $200,000 from expectations, the city documents show. The city has also taken hits in electric franchise tax ($139,000); interest earnings ($148,513); city court fines ($128,500) and building permits ($113,052).
Part of the reason the recreation fees were down was because council last year didn’t adopt the full extent of fee increases that were proposed by staff. Those increases are likely to be considered at an upcoming City Council meeting.
The recreation department has also been evaluating its operations to find additional revenue such as a jewelry show this past weekend at the Kedron Fieldhouse, officials said. Also the department has secured a rental of the Kedron pool on an ongoing basis by AirTran which will use it to conduct “ditch” training for its personnel.