PEACHTREE CORNERS -- Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason addressed the standing-room-only crowd packed into a small room at the Robert Fowler YMCA on Tuesday night, prefacing discussion about the city's proposed inaugural budget with one message.
That message: The feasibility study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia -- the one necessitated by law to assess a potential city's economic viability -- was not intended to set a budget for Peachtree Corners. The study's finding that the city would be viable with expenditures totalling just $760,917, he said, was not meant as a suggestion.
"I think there's a perception the recommendation was for a specific dollar amount," Mason said, "and that's not the case at all.
"It was the level of revenue at which the city is feasible," he added. "It didn't recommend a specific dollar expense budget for the first year. If you do the math on $760,000, that's 0.4 mills (collected through property taxes). They didn't recommend 0.4 mills, they recommended 1 mill."
After Mason's precursor, five members of the public spoke at the city council's first public hearing on the proposed budget of nearly $3 million. The millage rate factored into that budget is 1 mill.
"I'm asking you all to please look at these line items, to maybe not go with the Vinson study, but to please cut this and not go with the 1 mill," resident Mary Beth Stickney said. "I'm asking you to really look at what we are as a limited city, and to please set the stage for what we are."
Said resident Gary Shell: "The 1 mill is clearly more than we expected to spend ... The thing that worries me about it is the moral hazard of having more money than we know what to do with."
Resident Jimmy Neese said spending was already "getting out of hand."
"We talk about one thing and we end up doing another," he said.
Mason, meanwhile, pointed to several one-time purchases in the proposed budget, like furniture, a $30,000 relocation fee for the eventual city manager and funds used for consultants to help get the city started.
He urged residents to turn their attention toward the budget itself, not the initial Carl Vinson feasibility study, while offering critiques.
"Focus on the budget, the line items, what's there," Mason said. "That's what's important."
Another public hearing on the budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.