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Macon-Bibb commissioners agree on budget proposal, includes indigent care, transit funding

Macon-Bibb commissioners agreed on a budget proposal Thursday night that includes funding for indigent care and transit.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) -- In a unanimous vote, all nine Macon-Bibb County Commissioners agreed on a budget proposal that includes funding for indigent care.

The new proposal includes $475,000 for indigent care, just $25,000 less than what the Central Georgia Health System received in 2014. The new plan also calls for nearly $700,000 more in outside agency funding than in the mayor's original proposal.

Commissioner Gary Bechtel says that means the money will have to come from somewhere and that could be from eliminating positions or pulling from the reserve fund balance which currently sits at $4.9 million. Bechtel says taking money from the reserve fund will hurt the city's credit rating.

"I was told by credit agencies when I sat in front of them in March, we do not need to come out of fund balance, and I've repeated that over and over again. It just appears that some people were not listening, or didn't care," said Bechtel.

At the meeting, Bechtel also brought up the big balance in Central Georgia Health System's bank account. As of the end of March, the corporation is sitting on more than $800 million in cash. Bechtel said that's why he did not vote to fund indigent care.

"I voted no because I make every effort I can to protect tax payers. I don't spend other people's money as freely as some others do," said Bechtel.

Andy Galloway, a former executive at the Medical Center of Central Georgia, says that money is in line with a corporation of CGHS's size. However, he tells 41NBC that money does not go toward indigent care, which costs the health system about $25 million a year.

"Half million dollars is precious little, but it is precious," said Galloway.

He also added, he was thankful the commissioners had a change of heart. He said the move sends a positive message to the community that the government cares about MCCG's mission.

"$475,000 is a long way from zero, and I want to commend the commissioners for the hard work they did restore those dollars. I think was critically important," said Galloway.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger, who was on the same page as Bechtel about pulling from the reserves, does believe it was the right thing to do to put money aside for indigent care.

"The Medical Center is not a poor institution, but I do believe that they are due funding from the city, at least as a gesture that we support their mission to take care of those in Macon who need care and just can't afford it," said Schlesinger.

The proposal also restores funding for transit to $317,000 from the proposed $300,000.

The commissioners will vote on the budget on Monday, June 30th.


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