In a departure from tradition, the Peachtree City Council is hosting a town hall meeting on the city’s budget Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Citizens with questions are encouraged to submit them online in advance by visiting www3.peachtree-city.org/erequests/index.php/townhall. Those questions must include the citizen’s name and address so they can be made a part of the meeting record in the same way as those who attend the meeting in person must also provide their name and address.
Council is particularly keen to hear input from citizens as the city continues to struggle with reduced tax revenue brought on by the faltering economy. With reduced property values this year, City Manager Bernie McMullen has recommended a quarter-mill property tax increase to cover the commensurate losses.
The property tax rate increase will have less of an impact on homes whose property values declined, but it will be a net tax increase for those whose property values remained constant or increased.
The budget includes no raises of any form for city employees and the city also will get by without funding seven vacant staff positions.
The majority of city council has indicated no support for further employee cuts, though Councilman Eric Imker said he would like to adopt furlough days, across-the-board pay cuts and employee benefit reductions through elimination of one of the city’s two offered retirement plans.
In the past two years, the city has effectively eliminated 28 full-time positions for cost savings. The city has also adopted policies to charge employees for the privilege of using a take-home vehicle, and the previous benefits afforded to part-time employees have been axed, all in an effort to keep the budget under control.
Among the 38 eliminated positions were the assistant city manager, 23 people in public works maintenance, six in recreation maintenance, four in the building department, and one each from code enforcement, engineering, planning and the Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center.
Last year the city added six firefighters via a federal grant, a police patrolman and a detective along with a customer service representative and a contract manager for public works to handle the city’s outsourcing of grass mowing and landscaping services that was required with the public works and recreation layoffs.
The budget recommended by McMullen includes a reduction in $49,000 for the city’s July 4 events, as the costs are being shifted to the city’s Tourism Association, which is funded by revenue from the city’s hotel-motel tax.
As for other cuts advocated by Imker, a furlough day would save the city $46,000 and eliminating the city’s 401(k) retirement program would save $170,000. A one percent across the board salary reduction for all staff would save about $133,000.
Thursday’s town hall meeting will be streamed live on the city’s website for those who are unable to attend or would otherwise rather listen in the comfort of their own home or workplace.
The city also is hosting a wealth of budget information on a special page on its website: www.peachtree-city.org/index.aspx?NID=848. On that page is a link to the city manager’s proposed budget, budget presentation materials and also videos of last week’s two budget workshop meetings.
During the town hall meeting, the city will attempt to answer as many questions as possible which were submitted in advance, but not every question or comment may be addressed during the meeting. Each question and comment will be provided to City Council and also city staff, officials said.