Peachtree City, Fayetteville, Fayette County finalize spending plans

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Raises planned for Peachtree City’s first responders; sports leagues will have to pay light bills; 11% budget hike eyed in Fayetteville; Fayette’s $55 million budget includes 9% raise for deputies — 
Peachtree City expects to spend more than it takes in during the coming fiscal year, but City Manager Jon Rorie says it’s nothing to worry about. The city will be spending down its “over-position” in reserves
“It’s on purpose, it’s not bad, it’s not deficit spending,” Rorie assured council members and the half-dozen members of the public who attended the City Council budget workshop June 27.
The city has a target amount of cash needed to keep the city running for three months without any income. And they’ve stashed away $5 million more than that target amount, so Rorie plans to use part of that to get the proposed spending budget for FY 2019-2020 up to $39.3 million.
The expected revenues are $38.8 million. All of that together represents a 6.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
The city has paid off a general obligation bond, so the millage rate will drop by a fraction of a mill (0.176). Other than that, the millage rate is expected to remain at 6.232 mills.
In effect, that represents a tax increase for city residents whose assessed property values went up this year. That’s because the same tax rate will result in a larger tax bill that reflects those higher values. Thus the city will hold public hearings for the likely tax increase starting with the July 18 meeting.
The city is in good financial shape, “the best I’ve seen” in his five years in Peachtree City.
But in keeping with Rorie’s often stated goal — “protect the cash” — the budget describes some spending that’s “in,” and some that will be “out.”
“In” are significant raises for police and fire-EMS officers, a 2.5 percent cost of living raise for all other city workers, a pot for merit raises, a total of five added positions for police and fire.
“Out” are artificial turf for the city’s sports fields, the unfilled position of assistant city manager/public services director and utility costs of sports field lights. That last one is likely to impact the multitude of sports associations, which will now have to pay the light bills for the time they use the fields.
The city plans to spend big bucks on All Children’s Playground ($320,000), replacement of the Kedron gymnasium floor ($220,000) and Kedron gym lighting ($40,000), and upgrades on handicapped access for Meade Fields.
In the budget crosshairs is the bubble cover for the Kedron swimming pool. “If it needs replacing, then we take it off and make that a summer pool,” rather than a year-round facility, Rorie said.
Some tot lots will be closed and others consolidated, Rorie indicated.
Looking ahead, Rorie suggested the council may let voters decide in a $8 million general obligation bond referendum whether they want to go into long-term debt for public recreation facilities. — CAL BEVERLY

Fayette OKs $55 million FY20 budget

9% raise for public safety officers, 3.25% for other county workers — 
The $55 million general fund budget for FY 2020 was adopted June 27 by the Fayette County Commission on a 3-1 vote. As previously noted, the budget includes needed pay increases for staff and comes with no property tax rollback. That means higher tax bills for property owners whose assessments went up this year.
The vote to adopt the budget was 3-1, with Commissioner Charles Rousseau opposed. Commissioner Eric Maxwell was not at the meeting.
As outlined at the April retreat and with the support of commissioners, all public safety staff will receive a 9.09 percent pay increase. That need was driven home by Sheriff Barry Babb during the retreat when he referenced the bidding war that is currently occurring across metro Atlanta for positions such as deputies.
The budget also included a merit increase for all other non-public safety county employees based on a 5 percent forced bell curve with an effective increase of 3.25 percent.
The motion by Commissioner Chuck Oddo to adopt the budget as presented included increasing the bell curve minimum from 1.25 percent to 2.25 percent. It was stated that the increase was serve to offset the additional amount to be deducted in employee’s pay that will go toward a greater employee contribution in the retirement plan, thus offsetting a net decrease in pay.
While all certified public safety staff will receive a 9.09 percent increase, there are 17 non-certified people in public safety positions in the budget who will receive a straight 5 percent increase due to their proximity with their public safety colleagues.
Rousseau took issue, not with the 9.09 percent increase for certified public safety and not with the 5 percent increase to the 17 non-certified public safety positions, but to the remainder of county employees who will see their increases based on the bell curve.
Rousseau said all employees should receive the 5 percent minimum increase to be equitable across the board.
Commissioner Edge Gibbons during the discussion said that, with the current increases in place, the issue surfaced by Rousseau could be addressed next year.
Though his concern had not been brought up in budget workshops or at the first public hearing, Rousseau said he had raised the concern with colleagues for three to four weeks prior to the adoption meeting.
As for the FY 2020 budget totaling approximately $55.2 million, it will include maintaining the millage rate without a rollback to pay for the salary increases.
The general fund will carry more than $28 million in fund balance. — BEN NELMS

11% budget increase in Fayetteville to get July 18 vote

Tax rate uncertain until digest finalized in August — 
The first reading of Fayetteville’s proposed FY 2020 budget conducted June 20 shows the general fund totaling $17.2 million, an increase of $1.7 million over the current year. The budget will be adopted on July 18.
The FY 2019 budgeted totaled $15.5 million and was followed in August last year by a millage rate set at 5.646 mills. Finance Director Mike Bush after the June 20 meeting said the city’s plan, approved last year, called for no millage increase over the next 10 years.
Bush said the current budget, and subsequent projected revenues, is based on the expectation of a 3 percent growth in the local tax digest.
Seventy-nine percent of the general fund budget comes from taxes, with 53 percent coming from property taxes and 26 percent from local option sales taxes (LOST).
In all, nearly $14 million of the proposed $17.2 million general fund revenues will come in the form of LOST and property taxes. A sampling of the remaining revenues sources include licenses and permits at $838,630, fines and forfeitures at $1.1 million and charges for services at $201,377.
On the expenditure side, the budget addresses increased legal fees, IT costs, cyber security costs, human resources software and staffing upgrades in public information and marketing.
In terms of allocated expenses, 59 percent of the proposed budget pays for public safety staff, while 15 percent funds general government employees, 8 percent funds public works employees and 7 percent funds planning and zoning and building inspections.
The new budget is expected to come with approximately $5 million in reserve funds.
Per the plan established last year, it is during the 10-year period that the annual fund balance would sometimes show a positive and sometimes a negative, with the idea of balancing out over the period, said Bush.
As to whether the millage would remain the same over that time or come with any amount of rollback, including this year, depends in part on tax digest figures, and the growth accompanying them. Tax digest figures will be released in August.
The city last year added 12 firefighters and five police officers. Salaries and benefits for those positions totaled $1.1 million.
The second reading and expected adoption of the FY 2020 budget will come at the council’s July 18 meeting. The new fiscal year begins Aug. 1. — BEN NELMS