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Mayor, Witts Butt Heads on Budget Adoption

Days after its adoption, Mayor Kelly Kautz and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts still seek harmony and clarity on the 2013 budget.

Snelville city seal (Credit: City of Snellville)
Snelville city seal (Credit: City of Snellville)
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published June 3, 2012)

Snellville leaders are still trying to agree on what they did and didn't do regarding the adoption of the 2013 budget.

And, following a report on Patch on June 30 about the $9.6 million budget's adoption, both Mayor Kelly Kautz and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts reached out to clarify their positions.

(Read the original story here.)

In an email statement from the mayor on June 30, Kautz said some of the figures released by Witts to the media on Friday and included in his budget were inaccurate. She noted the lack of the LCI project and no overtime pay for police officers as just two of those problems. (See the mayor's proposed budget attached.)

"Mayor Pro Tem Witts’ budget has a surplus because he is trying to hide expenditures from the public which he knows the city will have to pay," Kautz wrote. "That was the issue of disagreement and why the comptroller stated that the budget was not in compliance."

According to a document sent to Snellville Patch from the city's comptroller there are some discrepancies between the mayor's proposed budget and Witts' proposed budget, including a $5,000 line-item omission of overtime police pay.

However, there is also an additional $16,500 in Witts' version for police patrols at city tourism events. (See Witts' budget attached.)

Witts said there were minor differences between his budget and the mayor's version, but he balked at any notion that he was trying to play hide-and-go-seek with taxpayers' money. In fact, Witts asked for questions or concerns about his budget before presenting it to council, and said in an email to council that "he attempted to be as accurate as possible."

"The statement that I would hide expenditures from the taxpayers is ridiculous and offensive," he wrote over the weekend. "Trying to use new tax dollars to pay for a project that can be paid for out of existing funds sounds a little deceitful to me."

Witts is referring to the LCI project, the main cause for this latest contention, and for which he wants to use surplus money to pay for. That money would come from the recent service delivery agreement, he said.

Besides, the $430,000 cost associated with it is an estimate, and one that cannot be solidified until the city is further along in process, he added.

Still, if the city uses surplus funds to pay for this major project, Kautz said the city's savings account would be reduced to level not keeping with sound, fiscal policy -- one adopted by the council several years ago.

"When I mentioned the fiscal policy Friday during the meeting both Bobby (Howard) and Tom (Witts) stated that they had never seen any policy, and they doubted it actually existed."

On Monday, in another attempt to clear up the budget fracas, Witts compared the city of Snellville's budget adoption with that of Suwanee.

In Suwanee, city leaders treated its service delivery money as additional revenue to offset taxes elsewhere, thereby reducing its expenditures by $585,000, according to a report in the Gwinnett Daily Post.

"Theirs passes unanimously, ours became a farce," he wrote. "What should have been celebrated has been turned into criticism from staff at a public meeting, being called deceitful by the mayor, and finally more bad press for the city rather than the positive press that Suwanee garnered."

Brenda Lee July 04, 2012 at 12:36 AM
.‎"...the citizens should not be taxed for it" Snellville's Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Witts responding to Mayor Kelly Kautz. WITTS POSITION: 1. the LCI over-run should be paid out of the $1.4 million settlement, and that the citizens should not be taxed for it. 2. The $16,900.00 should be paid with the funds that are in our reserve account that was paid by the Insurance company and that the citizens should not be taxed for it. 3. The proposed $99,000.00 transfer to the Storm Water fund is not needed and should be eliminated from the budget. http://councilconfidential.wordpress.com/snellvilles-budget-the-facts-speak-for-themselves/
Tom Witts October 15, 2013 at 11:25 AM
I would like to thank Joy Woodson for reposting this article from June of 2013. As stated in the original article I did object to the Mayor adding a $430,000.00 tax increase to the 2013 budget. At the time I stated two reasons, we had the money in our reserve account and secondly the proposed expenditure was premature and may not be needed. Now, 16 months later, everyone can see that the $430,000.00 was returned to the reserve account at the end of the year because it WAS NOT needed and the taxpayers were not unnecessarily taxed for an imaginary expenditure. While we are rehashing this article, the Mayor also said at the time that " if the city uses surplus funds to pay for this major project, the city's savings account would be reduced to level not keeping with sound, fiscal policy." Just this past week Patch ran an article quoting the City Manager that we are in excess of the 25% recommended reserve account for the City of Snellville. http://snellville.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/city-manager-clears-up-rumor-that-snellville-is-in-financial-ruin. At the time I was labeled as "deceitful" and "hiding expenditures from the citizens". Neither allegation was true. We did not need to tax the citizens for a debt that did not exist. The Mayor's inability to discern the actual expenses from imaginary expenses is apparent in the results of this discussion now that it has all played out.

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