ATHENS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Macon-Bibb Commission is working towards completing projects in the upcoming year, but putting the budget at the top of its list for the next year.
“Let’s put our show to the wheel and make Macon-Bibb County one of the one hundred best places in America to live,” said Mayor Robert Reichert. “We can do that, but it’s going to take a concerted effort, and yes it’s going to take money.”
Money was the keyword at day 2 of the Macon-Bibb Strategic Planning Retreat in Athens.
“I’ve been kind of waiting patiently for something to kind of turn around with our budget situation,” said Commissioner Virgil Watkins to the commission. “To me, it feels like we’re not getting closer to resolving that issue.”
The county is already facing a $12 million deficit for fiscal year, 2017 and now projecting a $4 million shortfall halfway through fiscal year 2018.
“I think we need to be more concrete and immediate on our short-term finances because that’s a problem too,” said Watkins. “Finishing out these 6 months of this fiscal year in the black is a goal of ours and to be that far off from it is a little bit disturbing.”
“We have to make some decisions and some cuts,” said Commissioner Mallory Jones. “We can not go back to the public and raise millage rates.”
Some of those cut suggestions were to healthcare and pension plans, as well as making cuts in county departments.
“I think first of all, we need to look at those departments, where we can make some small cuts that will make and impact the funding,” said Commissioner Elaine Lucas.
The commission has to look at how to trim expenditures, all while trying to move forward with completing projects in the community.
“The elimination of blight. People complain about that so much,” said Lucas. “That they’re these old run down next to them, there needs to be some relief. So we as a commission have got to state loud and clear that that is one of our priorities.”
In the first round of blight removal, the county eliminated 121 structures, and there’s about 200 more that are in the process of being demolished.
“I think me along with a lot of the other commissioners consider the quality of life in residential neighborhoods to be a top tier priority,” said Watkins.
Based on conversations at the two-day retreat, commissioners and county leaders will go back to Macon-Bibb and continue discussion and eventually make decisions.
The only decision made on Wednesday, was the election of a new Mayor Pro Tem, Al Tillman.