The Board of Commissioners and the City Council are faced with making a choice between two possible scenarios of the future. Either choice involves guessing or forecasting the next several years.
If you look at the future, a static case would assume that growth of population will continue at very low levels so that demand for government services will remain about where it has been over the last several years or grow only slightly. If tight controls on spending can be kept the current budgets can be made to work.
With a static case, we can wait on funds to come in and spend only as they are collected. But because of the past pattern of spending where a lot of needs were postponed for things like vehicles and raises and road repair, we face a period of catch up that will press finances and probably require the fund balance savings to be spent and the tax rate to remain static or increased slightly.
When I was on the board the assumptions of the static case were those under which we managed. I am beginning to believe that the future will now look very different. If the U.S. is faced with a period of financial stability and the current mood of the country continues, we will be faced with a rapid growth case. If that happens the city and the county need to change their approach or the future will look like that of Cobb County in the 1980s.
During that period, the leadership of many Atlanta suburban counties failed to anticipate the population growth and the result was a massive overload of the roads, the schools, fire and EMS, the police and the other services provided by cities and counties. It was hell. I lived there and know it well. They just now are catching up.
In periods of great population growth the best answer is to build systems before the growth. That means the dreaded words of debt.
I urge the county and the city to take steps to pass a TSPLOST sales tax of .75% and to borrow funds against that income and begin as soon as possible to build new roads around the Ga. 400 area and a bypass around the city.
Debt can be a burden on future citizens. That is a risk. But debt can be a good thing if the future is accurately projected.
If rapid growth happens and we do not prepare for it now by building the right roads, we will have the worst of all possible outcomes.