The City Council is moving forward on a number of fronts to resolve a variety of needs and concerns facing Peachtree City. A lot of issues have been ignored and postponed that can no longer be neglected.
Until Councilman Doug Sturbaum and I began addressing the issues of funding in recreation about a million dollars of taxpayer funds were being spent each year that should not have been spent. The tennis center operations have been moved from the red to the black and The Fred should progress to about break-even this year.
On the Kedron Complex, for the first time, it was stated that of about $923,000 in expenditures about $701,000 was being funded by property tax, which was unacceptable. That amount has fallen to about $460,000.
This year we did what the majority last year was unwilling to do and adopted the staff-recommended fee structures. If staff is the preferred management for the complex, then what they want for fees is what we should allow as long as we ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible as well.
Reality is we have to get the cost of operations down. Most of the cost is coming from the pool. That is even more true when facing a decision soon to replace the bubble top at a cost of $250,000. A new bubble would also have a limited life-span.
Another topic that has drawn much attention is seeking a new SPLOST. I won’t go into much detail here since my May/June letter in the Update focuses on budget issues. I will simply add some information not in the letter.
The current projected total debt for the 2011 budget is $19,700,000. That is a lot of money accumulated largely over the last 10 years to pay, in part, for large projects like the police station, attempts to repair the police station (note here repaired to size smaller than needed), tennis center and library.
The current projected debt payment for 2011 is $3,582,555. That is about 1.86 mills of property tax. Paying the debt down stops the millage rate from going up. Getting rid of it eventually should result in a millage rate less than 5 mills.
These realities are why we need a SPLOST dedicated first and foremost to debt reduction.
So I agree with Councilman Eric Imker we need a SPLOST, which I put on an Association of Fayette County Government meeting for discussion. But I do have to correct his statement that the defeated SPLOST was a bad SPLOST due to including the West ByPass.
The bypass actually was not on it. The West Bypass money was totally collected in the 2005 SPLOST, which just expired.
So SPLOST or no SPLOST, the bypass is already funded and the Fayette County commissioners have made it clear they are building it. In fact much of the bypass has already been built to date.
Finally, it needs noted that while the debt number is very high when looked at in financial and bond rating terms, it is actually considered moderate. If it were not we would not have a AAA bond rating.
Bottom line is we have to balance the budget. Reality is there are not enough cuts available to accomplish this goal. Getting rid of the debt would be a huge step forward for the future of Peachtree City budgets and property taxpayers.
[Don Haddix is the mayor of Peachtree City.]