Warning the city was at a “tipping point,” Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather unveiled a video on the city’s finances to an overflowing crowd at city hall Thursday.
The 25-minute video focuses on public safety, but the actual study is some 70 pages in length and focuses on all aspects of the city’s budget. The year-long study documented 20-year trends using an 18-city “peer group” of the state’s largest cities not including Lexington and Louisville. Georgetown is the fifth largest city in the peer group, Prather said.
The full study can be overwhelming, so the decision was made to condense it into a shorter video, the mayor said. Council members were presented with copies of the entire study.
“I decided to focus the video on public safety because when people locked their doors at night to go to bed, they want to know a police officer is on duty watching out for their safety,” Prather said.
Many of those in attendance Thursday were police officers and firemen.
The video painted a dismal photo of the city’s current situation in public safety, but a bleaker picture emerged as the video focused on the future based upon recent trends.
“Our intentions tonight is to present all of this incredible amount of data, in effect, rip a Band-aid off and begin a conversation,” Prather said following the presentation. “I don’t expect us to solve this tonight. Most people may be a little bit surprised and not sure how they should respond and that’s certainly appropriate considering the amount of data that has been presented.
“I look forward in the following weeks to conversations about the data and what the trends mean to our city’s operations. There are two myths I believe this study dispels. The first is that Georgetown is growing and it is flush with money. The second is, ‘you’ve got Toyota.’ Toyota is a great citizen and we are thankful. But Toyota is not a cure-all.”
The video along with the full study’s graphs and charts can be found on the City of Georgetown’s website at www.georgetownky.gov, the city’s YouTube channel and its Facebook page. Links are also included on the News-Graphic’s websites. Another presentation will be made for Scott United Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. at the Scott County Extension Office located at the corner of U.S. 25 and Long Lick Pike. The public is invited, Prather said.
The mayor encouraged the audience to look at the data and challenge it if they feel it is necessary.
“I think it is important that we hear questions from each other, hear questions from citizens and hear questions from the business community,” Prather said. “Let’s begin this discussion.”
Council member Mark Showalter asked if the mayor hoped to have a plan of action made in time for the 2020-21 city budget, which is due no later than June 30.
“In terms of a timeline, we brought the information as soon as we got it and in an understandable format,” Prather answered. “The current budget of the city of Georgetown included zero new headcount. We hired no new police officers, we hired no new firefighters, we hired no new dispatchers for this budget year because we simply could not afford it.
“Now, that’s for the fastest growing city in Kentucky, we couldn’t add any headcount for the current budget year. For the current budget year we haven’t added any new capital projects. We simply finished the ones we have on our plate. We are into a very difficult year for the city. Fortunately, we have been able to maintain our benefits, our insurance coverage and things without adversely affecting our employees. The upcoming budget that will take effect on July 1 will be an even more difficult process, if we haven’t found some solutions.
“But I don’t want to lay out a timeline that makes the council feel pressured. But I wanted to bring the information as soon as it was ready, begin a conversation and let the council and the public determine a timeline.”
Council member David Lusby praised the mayor for the information.
“This information is compelling and overwhelming, but it might be the most beneficial information we have ever received while I have been on the council,” Lusby said, noting he has been on the council some 20 years.
Council member Marvin Thompson agreed.
“It’s scary,” he said. “We need to figure this out. There’s going to have to be some changes.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.