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New City Council Gets $2.8 Million Wake-up Call

The public wants more open communication from the mayor and council.

A few weeks ago I wrote that one of the measures of success of the new City of Peachtree Corners would be how well it lived up to the campaign promises of open and transparent communication with residents. Apparently the mayor didn’t get the memo.

At the time I was writing that, the mayor and council were busy petitioning Gwinnett County for a moratorium on building permits, zoning changes and business licenses. The move wasn’t publicized ahead of time and the public had no chance to comment on the idea. The confusion and ill feelings caused by this were enough to cause the mayor to have to devote time during the next few meetings trying to explain it, followed by open letters in several forums. A little more communication beforehand might have prevented some of the confusion.

Last week the council was presented with a proposed budget of $2.87 Million…even the council members in attendance seemed shocked at a number that was nearly four times the $761,000 budget estimated by the feasibility study that all of them had campaigned on.  After some spirited discussion among the council, the mayor summarily dismissed the feasibility study by claiming it was never meant to be a budget, just a reference for the legislature. The consultants defended their proposed budget, including it’s $850,000 for reserves and contingencies, by saying it was the conservative thing to do. They also advocated levying the full 1 mil of property taxes allowed in order to cover this budget. Note to consultants: coming in four times over the expected budget and taxing at the full rate right out of the gate can be called a lot of things. Conservative isn’t one of them.

This week’s council meeting was attended by nearly 40 residents, many of whom wanted to address the mayor and council concerning the proposed budget. Much to their dismay, the city attorney advised the mayor that the agenda could not be amended to allow public comment, and the mayor acquiesced. Neither he nor the council, nor the consultants, mentioned the proposed budget during the remainder of the meeting.  Georgia’s open meetings laws are fairly specific as to what constitutes a meeting and how they must be advertised, but are generally silent on the subject of public input at such meetings. The level of public input is usually left up to the government entity in question.

I would urge the mayor to work with the city attorney to find a way to start providing more information to the public. The citizens want it, the council members want to provide it, and it might go a long way toward preventing more confusion and ill will.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dawn May 31, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Just living up to what most of us believed would happen. Too bad.
Harry Dorfman May 31, 2012 at 08:13 PM
They need to be shown that this isnt an extension of their HOA roots.
Ben May 31, 2012 at 09:11 PM
After we see the tax bills on our property tax, extra ad valorem on our vehicles, franchise tax on gas, cell phone and other utilities, we may want to consider a revote on the issue, before it gets any larger..
North Georgia Weather May 31, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Boy... how people change when they get in office. And anyone is surprised?
Rob C. June 01, 2012 at 11:30 AM
To all those who voted for cityhood, thankyou. I was really hoping for a tax increase. Just another example of there's no such thing as a free lunch. And what happens to our maximum tax rate when it is not enough?
Mim Harris June 01, 2012 at 12:42 PM
What exactly will we be getting for this tax increase that we did not have before?
Bob June 01, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Local control. Strict code enforcement. Cheaper garbage. What else did the pro-city folks use to promote this movement? And why are they silent on this proposed budget?
Jose R. Perez June 01, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Most of us running household or business budgets can easily discuss adding or subtracting numbers to reach a projected number. What, I want to hear from our elected officials is how they expect that taking $2.8M out of the private sector economy will add value to the citizens and why this is the conservative thing to do?!!
Bob Martell June 01, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Local control you say? Nobody even got to speak at the last mtg, the only ones in control seem to be the lawyer and the consultants... Strict code enforcement you say? There is a moratorium in effect. Cheaper garbage? Oh yeah, where is that cheaper garbage plan with the better service? Havent heard a word about it since last October...
Bob June 01, 2012 at 01:23 PM
But that's what we were promised Bob! These are our own friends and neighbors that are governing us! We can hold them accountable for their actions! Actually, I believe that we are building up reserves in our city's budget to purchase the Roberts land. I still strongly believe that there is a push to keep apartments out of the Simpson elementary school district, and cityhood was the surest way to make sure that happens. Once the land is purchased, zoning can then be changed on that parcel to something with fewer homes and then we will expand the city services to include Parks & Rec (hence the reason for the failed attempt at putting the West Gwinnett complex into Peachtree Corners) and we will place a city park on that land (or a City Hall).
Judy June 01, 2012 at 01:53 PM
This is an excellent article, Bob. Very well-written and I think it speaks for a lot of us who are now witnessing what is going on. From several summaries I have read in The Patch and one in the AJC, the reactions of the Mayor and Councilmembers are exactly what I expected. With the exception of Alex Wright, who from what I have read is the only one who questioned the huge budget, the rest seem to be very good at the old "bait and switch" behavior - pull in voters by promising one thing, then do another. The Vinson study was the information that was pushed down our throats pre-election by the Yes backers. Interesting how few if any have stepped up to defend their platform. I am very disappointed in the irresponsibility of the Mayor and council members, as well as their lack of communication to the public. Shame on all of you!
Judy June 01, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Yes, let's hear from them all!
Bob Martell June 01, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Thank you for the kind words Judy! To be fair, Alex wasnt the only councilmember to speak out against the proposed budget, but he was certainly the most outspoken. As I understand it, Jeanne Aulbach also defended us taxpayers...
Judy June 01, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Good to know, Bob, that another council member spoke up. The only accounts of the meetings I had read mentioned Alex. Thanks for the info!
Mike Smith June 01, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Did anyone really expect that this new government would be any different than any other government body? Government only gets bigger, not smaller and taxes will only go up. Government agencies are like cancer they grow out of control and eventually destroy the body, (taxpayers). I am sure everyone of us knows of taxes that were supposed to be temporary that seem to live forever and keep being expanded.
Youhavegottobekiddingme1 June 01, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I think Alex may have been wrong earlier Alex J. Wright 5:59 pm on Friday, September 30, 2011 Bob 1) Until you can provide some math to back up your claim of $300 in NEW taxes and fees your claims are irrelevant. It can't be done. 2) The article I referenced (and posted a link to) that you openly claim you did not read and have no need to read focues primarily on why cities INCORPOATE not why cities annex. ONE of the reasons listed for incorporation was to avoid being annexed by existing cities that ARE poorly run. How about reading the article before making assertions from the article. 3) The empty shopping centers, the slum like extended day hotels and the low rent apartments existed well before the real estate collapse. The real estate collapse simply made a bad situation worse. The seeds of the problem were laid by a County zoning and planning commission that never saw a development it didn't like. That lack of vision has what has led to this problem. That lack of vision came from the county. What I propose is putting NEW people in charge that are focused on bringing in development that will increase our home values instead of just bringing in development that will create marginal increases in tax revenue. 4) I don't deal in scare tactics. I deal in facts and numbers. Here is an example - I can substantiate with math that you can't come up with $300 in NEW taxes and fees based on the example your Ballot Committee has provided.
Youhavegottobekiddingme1 June 01, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The Mayor may be confused with the meaning of Feasibility. Here is the definition: Definition of FEASIBLE 1: capable of being done or carried out <a feasible plan> 2: capable of being used or dealt with successfully : suitable 3: reasonable, likely — fea·si·bil·i·ty \ˌfē-zə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun — fea·si·bly \ˈfē-zə-blē\ adverb
David Leader June 01, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Well, the moratorium is expected and fine; I was shocked by the budget as well. That's just... crazy? They don't need this many consultants for the basic functions; why are we getting the help from people who set up failing cities in the first place?
Youhavegottobekiddingme1 June 01, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Alex we need your help please! .Alex J. Wright 12:47 am on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 Bob, I'm sure its a tough night but I just wanted to say you guys put up a hell of a fight. To create an organization from thin air and in just a few months do what you guys did........ hell of a job. I hope people from both sides can close ranks around the concept of keeping a tight reign on our new government and making it work for the people and not spending one red cent more than absolutely necessary. Again, job well done by your team. Regards ...
robbob June 04, 2012 at 07:00 PM
you are using the wrong dictionary, check the definition in the unabridged Political Speak Dictionary version 2.0
Harry Dorfman June 07, 2012 at 04:02 AM
What happened to the line item last week where somebody that has a copy of photoshop was trying to "donate" a hideous logo that resembles a peach on a cross. Businesses should not be allowed to forward their agenda through "donations" Reply
Michael Wood June 07, 2012 at 02:22 PM
It's easy to post negative comments about the Peachtree Corners elected officials and their deliberations of a budget for the first year of the city's existence. Most of the ones I've read in the Patch so far seem like knee-jerk reactions, rather than carefully thought out analysis. The budget proposal process will include opportunities to see the categories of revenues and expenditures, to compare them to the feasibility study's projections of revenues and expenditures, and to give input to the city's elected officials. Let's go through that process in good faith, recognizing that our neighbors, people like us, serve as these elected officials. These are good people, and if we give them useful input we can help them do a good job for our new city. As most of the people posting comments know, a 1 mil tax rate on a home with a $300,000 fair value yields a property tax of $120, which is $10 per month. Frankly, if we get more responsive government, especially in the zoning and code enforcement arenas, it will be more than worth it to me to pay this amount of tax. What about you? Would you be willing to pay $10 a month for better government? If we don't get better government, then we can elect different neighbors and give them a try at fulfilling the goals of cityhood for Peachtree Corners.
Rob June 07, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Frankly the $10/month for better government is a wonderful thought. Probably the same thought that school boards used to address under performing districts, maybe the same thought TSA had, insert another government effort. I hope that you are right, but there are few if any cases where throwing additional funds have proved helpful. What about Tsplost only a couple of pennies? Soon all those pennies add up. Let's be mindful of that.
Ali Stinson June 14, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The proposed city budget is now available on the PCBC website. www.peachtreecornersfacts.com
Jimmy Neese June 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
When I stood up in the meetings and spoke in opposition to this. I told everyone in the meetings what was going to happen and it has. Mike assured me it was not, I just didn't realize it would come so fast. Mike has really shown his true colors. He is truly showing that he his headed to be a true politician. Do as you please and don't listen to the people of the community who pay your sallery. Just use your power and authority to do as the few around you want it done. Its headed out of control and he is driving the ship. Mike if its not true then try and stick to the budget. Don't tripple it before we get started. Looks like everyone is learning from Obama. Yea, It will all be open and transparent. Nothing is and it looks like we are following in his footprints. You can't start a new City which he has done and it not get out of control. I made that statement to you and again you assured me it won't happen. Mike it looks like its headed out. How can you be comfortable with a budget 3 times what you projected to us? Its totally disgusting and this is not the last of this type nonsense. I am sure it will only get worse.. IT TAKES MONEY TO OPEN AND RUN A NEW BUSINESS OR NEW CITY.THAT MONEY IS COMING FROM THE CITIZENS OF THIS COMMUNITY.You should have spent that money on making Gwinett do their job.It would have been a lot cheaper.Treat us with some respect. Our taxes won't go down in Gwinett it will just be added on to what we already pay.Get with program you started and stay.
Jimmy Neese June 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
It won't stop at 10.00 I am sure of that and that's not negative. Its fact. Hey if I'm wrong tell me in 3 years and I'll eat Crow. It never stops tell Washington that and Gwinett. Too late to tell me I'm watching it in Action. Tripple the Budget 1st one. Nope tell me in three years. You will see when you are paying for that new court house. Its called EGO. They all have it.
Jimmy Neese June 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Better than that just name me one body of government not out of control. If they need more just go up on our taxes. I wish Icould do that but in private sector, it just doesn't work that way, just government officials that get more greedy. I'll wait for some one to name that body of government. There might be a few that have put a true blue conservative in the slot to stop it for a while. But it won't last long never does and never will. Its not their money they are spending its yours and mine. I've lived here for 62 years and watched it. Don't tell me give them a chance you give them an inch they will take a mile. I promise you your taxes will rise faster than you can even imagine. Its just sad. A City doesn't run on air. It takes money.

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