Taylor sells city's 5-year plan

Albany's city manager tells City Commissioners they face some hard decisions in the coming years.

James Taylor

James Taylor

ALBANY — City Manager James Taylor warned Albany City Commissioners Tuesday that they'd have to "eliminate some sacred cows" if they're serious about returning fiscal responsibility to city government.

Taylor delivered the assessment after the commission's work session Tuesday morning as a vital part of his five-year plan for the city.


James Taylor

"There have to be some hard decisions made," Taylor said after his plan was given unanimous tentative approval by the commission. "And I think these commissioners know they're going to have to make those decisions. They know we can't go back to the tax-increase table — I know I don't want to go there — and to keep from doing that, they've got six to eight months to make changes.

"If they don't, we'll be right back here at the same place again next year."

Taylor's plan review included an overview of the causes for the city's economic woes, which led to "borrowing" almost $7 million from the MEAG fund ($3 million), from the city's sewer enterprise fund ($2 million) and from reserves ($1.8 million) to balance the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, and possible action that might be taken to address those woes.

The city manager pulled few punches.

"There has to be one person in charge of an organization," he said, referencing the city's often contentious relationship with the Water, Gas & Light Commission. "We have to eliminate the dual policies of city entities and provide consistent leadership, not fragmented management. It's a simple business decision."

He also told board members they'd have to do a better job of planning, rather than making "political-based decisions."

"For example, look at the (recently built) city gateways," he said. "They look really good, but there are pretty substantial maintenance and management costs that weren't considered before they were built. I'm having to deal with those now. Those kinds of things need to be considered before we do things, not after.

"And I personally think we ought to get out of the cemetery business. We're not getting a return near the maintenance costs. There are a lot of things this city is financially responsible for that are not on the books. And, frankly, the city is not getting what it deserves from me because I'm spending so much of my time doing things that don't matter."

Taylor set a goal of reducing costs in the city by a minimum of $5 million a year over the course of the five-year plan. Yet he warned that doing so will be even more difficult given some of the issues facing the city.

"Our pension/retirement fund is a $160 million risk that's out there, and our current sick leave policy is a great liability," he said. "Sanitary and stormwater sewer separation is a $100 million project and now that T-SPLOST has failed, we'll need a minimum of $4 million a year to maintain streets in the city.

"We're going to have to look at our fee and rate structure to make sure we're recouping our costs, our personnel structure — because my plan right now is to reduce our work force by 60 people over the next five years — and we'll have to reduce our recreation programs, reduce fuel consumption, insist that property owners take control of their own property. We just can't be everything to everybody any longer."

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said city officials would have to do a selling job to meet some of the goals in Taylor's plan.

"We have to make sure people understand what we're giving up and why," she said.

Ward 3 Commissioner Chris Pike said city residents would have to play a part in the austerity plan as well.

"Folks need to recognize that we all have a stake in this," he said. "And we have to reprioritize. We spend $15 million in this community to lock people up, and no one bats an eye. But we spend only $250,000 on economic development. That shows where our priorities are."

The bottom line, Taylor said, is using common sense while making decisions that will impact the economic future of the city.

"There are some things we can't do anything about right now," he said. "But there are things we can do. We went from 872 employees to 930 in the last three years — during one of the worst economic downturns ever — and that's not good business.

"I think this board knows we can't just sit around this table and pretend we don't know what's going on. We can't just say, 'We'll use money from our reserves and everything will be all right.' They won't. A couple of big items, and the reserves are gone. And in 2016, the MEAG money goes away. We've got to prepare."


boyoboy 3 years, 3 months ago

This guy needs to be the mayor. Hubbard doesn't know her a$$ from third base. At least when Adams was mayor you would see him from time to time.


LikeItIs 3 years, 3 months ago

The office of Mayor in the Council-Manager form of city government is largely ceremonial. Mr. Taylors excellent grasp of reality shows he is right where he needs to be to make the best of a deteriorating situation.


MRKIA 3 years, 3 months ago



buddy 3 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, you spend $15 million a year to lock people up because Albany has descended into a welfare city where mothers don't have children as a family decision, they have them as a financial decision. Then they let the streets raise their children which in turn increases crime and drugs. Then you blame the city for criminals not having anything to do, but choose crime....yet when there is something to do they still choose crime! So yes, $15 million should be about right and look for it to rise unless criminals aren't prosecuted and thus put back on the streets to do more crime...wait, that's already where we are!


B4it 3 years, 3 months ago

Someone is finally seeing the light. J. Taylor once said the budget issues are a blinding flash of the obvious. For some this is true, but it takes others a lot longer to finally wake up. This goes for both the City and County Commissioners. There was a previous unanimously approved plan by an appointed prominant study group and a Grand Jury to consolidate the remaining duplicated City and County departments. However, the current group of political hacks turned their backs on the plan and pretended they were far superior with their knowledge of balancing the budgets by using up the reserve funds. Now some are starting to see the foolish decisions some of these commissioners have been making. Consolidation is not only a significant alternative to reducing expenses, it also solves the wasteful time negotiating the LOST funds distributions that is currently going on. I am encouraged with Mr. Taylor's stance to make tough choices. Now we just need some CIty and County commissioners to stop playing politics and get down to the business of making the right decisions that will prevent future property tax increases.


VSU 3 years, 3 months ago

You are going to have continued crime as long as you have the revolving door between the jailhouse, courthouse and the streets. The reason there is so much crime is you have the same people doing it over and over again. They commit a crime, get arrested, judge sends them back out, they commit another crime, get arrested, judge sends them back out, they.....

With that aside, Good job by the City manager James Taylor on making these tough decisions. It may be tough but you have to start somewhere.


whattheheck 3 years, 3 months ago

Pretty soon the $1 million sugar teat for Chehaw expires so no more with that, ACRI, and the RQ. Also the city needs to look at how we use some of the federal funds that have been used for subsidized housing but could be allocated to other community development or economic development use--no more subsidized housing!!!. I think this is where some of the funds for the HH smackdown came from. And on the subj of blight smackdowns, quit subsidizing those who could pay for demo work with city funds, like we did with Capitol City's housing on Highland behind the HH. Forget about the proposed transit station--even if federally funded it will be locally maintained and operated.

Jim's comments on picking up the tab for $4 million in street repairs now that TSPLOST has failed is puzzling. How did we pay for repairs for all those years before TSPLOST was even thought of?


TrixibelleBento 3 years, 3 months ago

GDOT paid for a lot of it. GDOT isn't collecting fuel taxes at the same level, so that money will no longer be coming to the city. That's why TSPLOST was thought of in the first place. Raise money locally, spend it locally. That didn't work, so now the roads will slowly start to crumble. This is what everyone wanted, so good luck trying to get our infrastructure upgraded. No one will notice the changes at first. People will start complaining when it's too late. GA will continue its downward decline while other states will continue putting money into its transportation network.


KaosinAlbany 3 years, 3 months ago

You are wrong. If GDOT didn't have "software problems" then we would have that money. Yeah, they blamed it on software problems for their mismanagement of money over the past 4 years.


KaosinAlbany 3 years, 3 months ago

Don't buy into what politicians tell you. Do your own research and make your own determination. That is what I did and found out the GDOT has been in hot water for the past 4 years. If they didn't mismanage funds then we would have that money to go towards the roads.


TrixibelleBento 3 years, 3 months ago

Never heard about any software problems.


bigbob 3 years, 3 months ago

I got some ocean front property in Arizona that I am selling cheap. I figure if you think this plan will work you may buy what I am selling also. LOL


ustaknow 3 years, 3 months ago

For years- the city ran off business with a sign ordinance that closed retail shops and slowed down revenue for others. This resulted in loss of jobs as well as lost tax revenue.

Back in 2006 it was hard to get a business license- tat has since changed thankfully but the sign ordinance is still punishing would be entrepreneurs and slowing down revenue for existing businesses.


BettyBowTie 3 years, 3 months ago

Taylor talks the talk but he is not without issues believe me.


AlbanyObserver 3 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Taylor, I salute you. Please continue to be the voice of reason and logic. Please continue to attempt to bring common sense to city government. No governmental entity can or should be all things to all people. Pare down the scope of local government, to be more in line with the projected tax base, and Albany may be able to survive. Fail to do so, and we will surely fail.

The "build it and they will come" theory does not work. It's actually "build it and we will pay." And pay for a long, long time.


Burke 3 years, 3 months ago

Albany, we are suffering the consequences of our collective personal behavior over the past decade. WE MUST become personally responsible for our own actions. That means both fiscally and physically. Mr. Taylor has presented us with evidence of just where Albany is spending her monies. Each and everyone of us is going to have to roll up our sleeves, pull up our pants, and work hard to see our city and county progress. IT CAN BE DONE. $15 million to lock up people is a disgraceful community reality. It is high time we look at the hard cold facts about children having babies, no parents, wandering the streets. It is not nor does it ever represent a glorious way of life. It is a SHAME. It is a disgrace for a young female not to value her own future enough to say NO to some creep that would willfully indulge himself for a moment's pleasure and not to realize that there is more to life than the moment. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY taught in home, the schools, and the church would go a long way to helping us all have a better life. We need to change what we think is "cool" Try looking at the billboard on Pine Avenue selling liquor with a man and woman seductively together entitled "BUMP THE NIGHT AWAY" How about a billboard that shows a teenage girl in a classroom with HOPE for her future?


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