by Dr. Henry C. Ficklin
In 1973 then Macon Mayor Ronnie Thompson fought against the consolidation of our city and county governments declaring that "merger is murder on your pocketbooks." Recently, some of the News media in a very limited fashion allowed some hints of budget shortfalls to trickle out of city hall, perhaps realizing that they have a journalistic duty to inform the public. But there has been no analysis of just what the problem is. This new government called for a reduction of costs in both the city and the county, therefore people voted for it mainly on the premise that a consolidated government would cost citizens less.
In these very minimal reports, we have heard that the reserves of the city-county government are eight million dollars in the hole. Another report mentioned that the SPLOST funding was 16 million dollars in the hole. That's a whopping 24 million dollars with a question mark by it. Can we find out what is really going on with our finances in this consolidated government? Does anyone really know? All the recorded explanations leave a lot of room for speculation. When was the last time we heard that there was a budget hearing or review of the budget? Are budget reviews still being held in this new form of government?
The legislative arm of government is the purse string holder for a democracy, or at least supposed to be as set up by our U.S. Constitution. However, it appears that we can't get a word from our Commissioners who are in charge of the funds about this shortfall situation. Is this the beginning of the woes of consolidation that we were warned of as early as 1973? If it is not, then some elected official who knows what's going on needs to inform us, the public, of what exactly is happening. Is there one among our Commissioners who can explain the budget to us? The old "we over estimated revenues" will work sometimes, but not for 24 million dollars, come on, let us see some figures. They all appear to be in sync with what's happening at the Government Center, so please share it with the rest of us.
Dr. Henry C. Ficklin is a former member of Macon City Council where he chaired the Appropriations Committee for 12 years; he holds a Ph.D. from Mercer University.
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