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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Atlanta budget shortfall: Things could be worse

To those moaning over a likely tax increase in Atlanta we offer two words: East Point.

Although the town lying just southwest of Atlanta has achieved widespread fame as home to such hip-hop superstars as OutKast and Goodie Mob, that success hasn't been matched by the local government. For the past decade, East Point has been, hands down, the worst-managed city in the 10-county metro region – and this includes such screwed-up 'burbs as Lithonia and Snellville.

You'll recall that, a few years back, East Point's then-Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard revealed the city had somehow squandered an $11 million surplus and had a $8 million deficit. That's a $19 million mistake for a city that only had a $75 million budget. It also was later discovered that the city owed an additional $18 million to Atlanta for water-system improvements and hadn't paid a $4.5 million power bill. Taxes were jacked up nearly 70 percent to cover the gaps.

Last year, East Point raised its already punishing tax rate by 20 percent, but still ended the year $7 million short. In fact, as the AJC has reported, the city has spent the past 10 years in the red. This year seems to be a replay with yet another projected budget deficit, this time of at least $5 million. The city is now faced with the choice of sending all city workers home or closing three of its five fire stations.

As someone who lived in East Point for three long years a while back, I have to say I'm glad I got out while the getting was good. Sad to say, but that place is fucked.

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