I have a reputation for beating the city up. It’s kind of my thing apparently. I don’t have a real issue with that, primarily because the city has done plenty over the past few years that I felt needed to be addressed. I’m the type of person who is going to tell the emperor that he has no clothes on.
However, yesterday I saw something from city manager James Taylor that I can’t really take issue with. That is the city’s five year plan.
Now, I’ll concede that plans aren’t always indicative of what actually happens down the road, but I’ll also point out that they generally are indicative of what the powers that be want to happen. In this case, I actually saw a responsible approach to city government.
I don’t know Taylor’s political affiliation, but many of the things he spoke about warmed this libertarian’s heart. You see, at the heart of Taylor’s plan are significant cuts to the city’s budget. How deep? Well, time will tell, but there are a few examples that I thought were pretty bold, and I honestly think it took a great deal of courage to mention.
One that stood out to me was the city cemetery. Taylor reports that the City of Albany spends $250,000 annually on the upkeep of the cemetery. They come nowhere near recouping that money. “I think you need to get out of the cemetery business,” were his exact words. However, he also appeared to understand that doing so was impractical.
Instead, he said it was imperative to keep the operating costs as low as possible. One thing he mentioned was what some cemeteries in Florida do, and that is to get rid of the grass completely and use pebbles. The maintenance costs would plummet under such a plan. Would there be an initial expense? Absolutely, but the long term benefits definitely look like they would more than make up for it.
Another financial hole the city has is the golf course. Now, I’m not a golfer, and I know that a lot of golfers would hate to see anything happen to the golf course, but the truth is that the taxpayers are supporting their pastime. Honestly, that’s not how a responsible government operates. Taylor has apparently spoken with some companies that would like to manage the Turner course. He’s not sure they’ll be interested when they get numbers on the use of the course, but I want to applaud him in this approach.
Taylor also wants to look at outsourcing for some positions. Honestly, it’s a smart way to handle many fields. IT, for example, can be outsourced to a company that will provide technical personnel at a reduced cost to the taxpayers. The Department of Defense has been using contractors for years, and it may be a way to provide similar services to the city at a reduced cost.
A lot of people, including myself, took issue with Taylor for suggesting a tax increase recently. I’m still not happy with it. However, it now appears that it was part of an overall plan that requires reduced spending. Taylor’s plan also calls for increased revenue from more homeowners and higher property values, things that will require significant changes in how things are run in Albany. It also calls for a review of fees, which will no doubt be unpopular with those who are impacted. I certainly understand.
I also understand that Albany is a train wreck. While Taylor has nothing to do with the Dougherty County School System and the disasters that body entails, it is within his realm of responsibilities to take care of the rest of Albany. Honestly, I like what he’s proposing. The commissioners even seemed to like it. Let’s just hope they will let him do what he says he will do.