It is a difficult time for elected officials for the city and county. The Bibb County Commission and Macon City Council are going over budgets that have to be in place by July 1. They have to make prudent decisions, not only for their governments, but for a consolidated government that will arrive with the new year.
The budget discussions also reveal challenges the new government will face that present governments have to prepare for. For example, where do you put people? The county is going to issue bonds in order to deal with the space problem. Another issue, among a myriad of others, for the new government is how to pay for everything with, after the first year, a 5 percent tax decrease staring it in the face for the next four years.
The new government will have to be very stingy. For instance, when a new fire station is built (Bibb County has two new stations coming on line) those buildings need equipment and personnel. Fire trucks aren’t cheap. It costs money to train new firefighters (24). While there’s no argument that we have to do something about juvenile crime, the new Juvenile Justice Center, paid for through SPLOST proceeds, will still have to be staffed. Sheriff David Davis asked for 19 deputies and a secretary. He received approval for the secretary and seven deputies. He will have to figure out how to deploy his combined city-county force to cover the center.
When the conversation turns, as surely as it will, to taxes, city and county residents will have to make some decisions. It’s not a matter of pounding our shoes demanding lower taxes, but deciding what services we want and which ones we can do without. If the new government doesn’t figure out a way to grow the tax base, that question is inevitable.