NORCROSS — City Lite was promised to residents during the election for mayor and city council of Peachtree Corners, as they promised a budget around $700,000.
However, after Tuesday’s special-called meeting with a line-by-line list of the budget presented, many residents felt that the city was anything but “Lite,” and that the mayor and city council reneged on their promise to have the budget around $700,000.
Instead, the proposed budget is $2,727,168.00.
“There are a lot of things that I find concerning when I look at this budget,” Ed Stiles said. “A lot of the things on this budget are not feasible.”
Although the budget won’t be voted upon until Thursday, residents had a lot to say.
Items included in the budget, which has drawn harsh criticism from residents include:
• 25 percent 401K contributions for city employees
• $100,000 for a 24-hour call center
• $30,000 in moving and relocation expenses for a city manager when hired
“We don’t need $100,000 for a 24-hour call center,” Stiles said during the public hearing. “When residents call, they can press 1 to get ahold of someone for the city or (press another number) to get transferred to Gwinnett County for the services they’ll provide.”
Mike Smith was equally critical of some of the moves.
“Twenty-five percent on a 401K package is a bit excessive,” he said to the mayor and city council. “I don’t know any company that does that. Most are paying around 6 percent. And, a relocation package of $30,000. Really? Do you already have someone in mind?
“It seems like you’ve led people astray when you said the budget would be around $700,000.”
Mim Harris seemed to get the biggest ovation from the more than 50 residents in attendance as she asked for the mayor and city council to look deep within themselves when considering the budget, urging them to go back over it and figure out what they can cut out.
“This isn’t City Lite,” she said. “They’re listening to consultants too much and not remembering what their promises were to us. They’re failing to create a new city model, which was a major reason for this city in the first place. It’s almost like they’ve done the old bait and switch.”
Mayor Mike Mason addressed some concerns prior to the public forum, stating that they’re really operating on a $700,000 budget saying that some of the line items shouldn’t really be counted.
“There’s a $500,000 tax anticipation note (repaid by Dec. 31) and a $500,000 startup fee that we won’t see next year,” he said. “There’s a $500,000 contingency and reserve fund that the city could or could not use. It just depends.”
Other fees added in there included $131,000 in legal fees, $189,000 for a finance department and $117,000 for leasing facilities, since the city is not building a city hall.
“It’s not spending gone wild, we’re just trying to protect the city,” he said.
However, Allan Peel had a different take on some of those items.
“If you’re borrowing money and spending it, then it’s part of the budget,” Peel said. “You can’t just take off that $500,000 because it’s going to be repaid at the end of the year. It’s still money we have to pay.”
Peel also brought up the concern that the mayor and city council aren’t allowed to answer questions in public, but can do so in private.
“What’s said in private is not always the same thing that’s said in public,” he said. “A one-way dialog from the public to the council without an opportunity to hear their formal responses, or for formal and public Q&A, leaves the audience with a dire sense that our voices are going unheard.”
Harris said she knew when the $700,000 model was presented, it wouldn’t be the correct numbers, but $2.7 million is way too much.
“Having $1.4 million would be very generous, but it’s something I would certainly understand considering this is a start up,” Harris said. “But, something’s wrong when they come to us with a $2.7 million budget.”
When asked what would happen if Thursday’s vote came back with very little or no changes to the budget, Harris was frank.
“There will be a lot of people calling for a repeal of the city,” she said. “If not that, the mayor and city council are all going to be one term. If this budget goes through, after hearing the complaints of all the residents, it’s going to be like a slap in the face. I hope they do the right thing and make some changes.”