Thank you for your questions, comments and many ideas you have sent and discussed with me over the past year and a half, especially regarding the budget.
And, thank you for allowing me to serve as a council member for the last 19 months. Only 19 months and what a ride it’s been!
Some are discouraged by the intrigue that has plagued us at City Hall. I have no talents in political games and would like to skip over those unpleasantries. Council members Sturbaum, Fleisch, Learnard and I have had disagreements on issues; however, we have treated each other with respect and honesty without the spectacle and disastrous results we have recently experienced.
I’d like to share with you what we have accomplished and where we are headed as far as the budget is concerned. It can be complex at times when dealing with multi-year budgets. It is far easier to criticize than to understand.
I’m happy to report we are approaching a vote for the 2012 budget that I believe will be supported by all of the City Council. The budget will not include any tax increase for 2012.
Further, this budget addresses the city’s spending levels for future years, reserves and needed infrastructure repairs in what I believe to be a reasonable, prudent and constructive way.
Of course we will always have nay-sayers and defeatists who try to make things look as bad as possible for their own political agendas. But even they cannot deny that the mission of crafting this budget has been, so far, a resounding success.
We are recovering from years of fiscal hemorrhaging and are now poised for a recovery over the next few years. I led the charge in identifying the major budget problems we faced. Until then, no one really knew how bad a situation we were in. We now have a multiyear plan that leads us to a fiscally sustainable budget in the future.
I campaigned on the premise that we could find and execute solutions to our city’s budget problem without raising taxes. I told everyone last year we needed $2 million in reductions just to have a chance at developing a long-term recovery plan.
During the creation of last year’s budget we had three choices: (1) The reductions I proposed; (2) a major cut in employees and services, or (3) a tax increase. Of course a combination of all these may have been the better solution; however, everyone else on council decided raising taxes was the best solution.
The question became, how much do you raise taxes? Faced with this, I was adamant that we not leave last year’s budget process unless a plan was in place to return Peachtree City to fiscal responsibility.
Last year, some on council advocated only a 0.5 mill increase. Had that course been taken we would be looking at a deficit of over $3 million this year. If that trend continued, Peachtree City would be bankrupt in three years. This was obviously not the right solution.
Yes, attracting new industry to the city would help. Last year it was suggested we could add 200 high-paying industrial jobs. That would have been great but it didn’t happen. Nor would it have made up a $3 million city budget shortfall. (For reference, we cut $1 million last year and cries echoed that we could cut no more. Imagine an additional $3 million problem just for 2012.)
Last year I voted for a tax increase because, like I said, we were not leaving that budget process without having a long-term budget plan. Nay-sayers have used that against me (with political malice and without mentioning the alternative solution I proposed.)
However, the discussions leading up to that vote brought attention to the city’s budget process resulting in significant movement toward fiscal responsibility and a sustainable budget for Peachtree City.
My motives are not political. My only desire is to continue to use my budgetary experience and know-how to get ideas on the table, suggest the controversial but sometimes necessary cuts, and explore creative and concrete budget solutions. We will need another few years of careful budget management to guarantee we’ll make it. I’m positive we can.
I’m prepared to defend all my actions in public. I am always available to meet with you to discuss the budget or any other issue concerning Peachtree City government.
Post 1, City Council
Peachtree City, Ga.[Eric Imker is in his second year of a two-year term. Week-long qualifying for his post begins Aug. 29 for the Nov. 8 city election.]