Macon-Bibb County Commissioner: ‘We continue to believe whatever we believe’

"Our policy doesn't change and we continue to believe whatever we believe even though a subject matter expert has told us we're wrong," said Commissioner Watkins.


MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb County financial issues have been a discussion among commissioners for months.

The discussion of where its money is heading for 2018 and 2019 has been brought up since January.

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“Some of this stuff you’ve reported and we’ve known since January and we continue to revert back to old information,” said Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Virgil Watkins. “The mayor presented that we were $4 million in the hole for this year and you could see it in some of the commissioners eyes and statements, that they were treating that like it was new information.”

That’s why Commissioner Watkins thinks the commission can’t seem to agree on a lot of issues.

“This is not new information,” said Watkins. “People are either closing their ears when its given and closing their eyes when it’s handed out.”

Watkins has held multiple finance meetings over the last few months, preparing for the budget approval. As a result, the operations and finance committee came back with numbers the rest of the commission did not agree with.

“We saw all the people who came in,” said Commissioner Elaine Lucas. “All the agencies came in and brought detailed information on what they do. What they’ve spent, where the other funding comes from and we made some intelligent decisions.”

Although, the meetings were held by operations and finance, which was composed of Commissioner Watkins, Lucas, Schlesinger and Jones at the time, other commissioners were invited to attend as well, but not everyone showed.

Commissioners have even brought in experts.

“We don’t grow from the conversation,” said Watkins. “Our policy doesn’t change and we continue to believe whatever we believe even though a subject matter expert has told us we’re wrong.”

“Right now there is a difference in philosophy,” said Lucas.

“Some people don’t understand fiscal responsibility,” said Jones.

One financial advisor has told commissioners before they need to raise property taxes by 5 mils, in order to avoid another projected deficit and keep funding what they need to. But commissioners did not think that would be fair to residents, so they didn’t listen.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in this same situation again this year and be talking about another tax increase for another year in a row,” said Mayor Robert Reichert.

Since the mayor presented his budget in May, commissioners have spent a total of 25.5 hours in the commission chambers for meetings, according to Macon-Bibb County spokesperson, Chris Floore. That’s not including other called meetings they’ve held to discuss funds.

The commission will vote next Thursday to increase the millage rate by 3 mils next Thursday, but how they will re-fund agencies and county departments is still to be determined.