Despite a difficult budget year and some recent city layoffs, Winder’s mayor and city administrator said this week that neither they nor the city council would be part of any public hearing process regarding the town’s impending $43 million FY2010 budget.
That position raised questions from one citizen at Tuesday night’s council meeting and appears to violate Georgia law regarding the city budget process.
City administrator Bob Beck said residents have “ample opportunity” to air their concerns at the hearings.
“If you are looking for an opportunity to sit there and do a conversation or have input back and forth between citizens and the council and the mayor, that does not happen,” Beck told a citizens who questioned the city's budget process.
The city’s proposed budget was distributed for the first time to the council Monday night. The city held a meeting May 26 at which a city employee met with two citizens, but that meeting did not have the mandatory seven-day public notice, and the mayor and council did not attend as required by state law for the meeting to be a legitimate hearing. In addition, the “budget” presented at that hearing was incomplete, consisting of a one-page data spreadsheet.
Winder resident Kay Pierce asked the council Tuesday night why the new budget lays out a different process than the one the city is actually following.
Pierce asked Mayor George “Chip” Thompson III when had he presented the budget to the council as the city’s procedures call for. The mayor said he did not present it to the council. He said city employee Leslie Ginn distributed it Monday at the council’s work session.
Chiding Pierce for what he called “some little word search” in the budget document, Thompson added, “We have our expert, who is Leslie Ginn, she can answer any questions you have with the budget.”
Georgia law makes some specific requirements as to how cities are to present their budgets, how hearings are to be publicized, and what the specific timetable should be for the budget process. Winder has not followed that process this year.
For the full story on this debate, see the June 3 issue of the Barrow Journal.