Your Say

Citizens need to check in during 2018 budget deliberations

Macon-Bibb County consolidated government is exhibiting serious signs of fiscal distress from this aggrieved taxpayer’s perspective. Prior to adoption of 2018 county budget, a thorough evaluation of 2017’s county budget, performed by an independent municipal credit analyst and counselor, is recommended to disclose inconsistent accounting practices, improve reporting regulations and guide sound financial planning strategies for the common benefit of taxpayers, not special interest groups.

The political establishment has superior impact on the quality of life and quantity of income. The power of taxation ultimately affects every individual. Citizens are urged to be inquisitive, informed and involved with registered voter responsibilities to safeguard our constitutional rights. Identification, selection and election of political representatives who swear a solemn oath to serve, not manipulate, stakeholder constituents, is a very difficult duty.

Continual observation of local government administration — especially custodial use and care of taxpayer dollars — may encourage guardians of the corporate purse to apply financial restraint. Absence of accountability equals concealment.

Macon-Bibb County’s 2017 total millage rate is set at 34.572, one of the highest millage rates of any of the 159 counties within the state. Millage rate factor is multiplied by a real estate tax parcel’s assessed value to determine property owner’s annual tax liability. A county tax digest compilation of all assessed valuations and total valuations of taxable and exempt real estate tax parcels within the county provides a calculated value basis for projecting primary source of revenue, outstanding debt payment management, bond guarantee and justification for adding more debt obligations of taxpayers up to a 10 percent legal debt margin established by the state of Georgia.

Seventeen pages of Macon-Bibb County’s 2017 budget detail four categories of debt structure management. Outgoing transfers to enterprise funds, below average socioeconomic factors and high poverty influenced rating agencies to assign Macon-Bibb County bond ratings of Aa2 and AA, last reported in April 2014. Current actual total outstanding debt exceeds adopted 2017 county budget’s total outstanding debt amount allowance by an unfathomable 40.7 percent, red flagging lack of budgetary control. Macon-Bibb County’s current total outstanding debt-to-revenue ratio is also financially irresponsible.

As a conscientious 15-year Bibb County taxpayer and hopeful senior citizen, resentment grows for past, present and future personally-unauthorized debt responsibilities. Underwriting highly-subsidized, lucrative retirement pension funds and health-care benefits for 1,786 current full-time Macon-Bibb County government employees plus 1,500 retirees was not my choice and is non-sustainable without huge tax increases. The total amount of retirement investment funds exceed $400 million. What about transferring some of those funds to sanctioned initiatives to reduce the extraordinary crime rate, abject poverty and sexually transmitted disease epidemic in Macon-Bibb County?

Providing business enterprises with financial assistance for land acquisition and improvements in Macon-Bibb County via a preferential 20-year revenue bond instrument issued by the Industrial Authority should not be a governmental activity and taxpayer obligation. This inducement plot to attract commercial operations to Macon-Bibb County has not satisfied its premise.

Important political issues addressed in this submission and other topical dilemmas are wide open for group discussion and personal action. Divine and human intervention is sought for immediate alteration of the present gloom and doom course we are headed in.

Share expressed perspectives with your friends, family and political representatives. Change personal financial strategies if fiscal priorities are misplaced. Publicly crusade for action to correct those financial policies and procedures deemed unacceptable to Macon-Bibb County citizenry placed at the pinnacle of the organizational chart.

Be present and participate in upcoming public meetings on proposed 2018 county budget. Don’t be overwhelmed by the voluminous county budget document. Study major budget line items. Request Janice Ross, clerk of the commission, to assemble and supply answers to relevant questions. Offer constructive comments to your district commissioner and diligently consider his or her responses. Find or partner with a grass roots endeavor to preserve Macon-Bibb County community democracy.

Taxpayers have long been duped by government administration secrecy and, in general, ruled by apathy. Acknowledge and accept citizen responsibility. Insist on:

Resolution, not rhetoric. Reduction in spending, debt, entitlements, assessed taxes and levied fees, not increased deficits, debt limits and interest payments. Restoration of constitutional government, not self-serving performances.

Linda Kay Nalley is a resident of Macon.

Macon-Bibb County has a millage rate of 14.652. That does not include the millage rate for the school system which is levied by the Bibb County Board of Education.

— Editors