Flowery Branch City Council hopefuls met in a forum Monday night, hosted by the South Hall Republican Club.
The city’s June 16 election will decide who fills the Posts 1 and 5 seats, formerly held by Damon Gibbs and Tara Richards, respectively.
Michael Justice and Chris Mundy are vying for the Post 1 position, with the term set to expire Dec. 31. Monica Beatty, Alan Davenport, Ed Edwards and Nicole Kriews are in the race for Post 5, with that term to run through December 2017.
The candidates espoused fairly similar goals for the city council if elected; however, differences did emerge when asked how they would vote on the city’s millage rate.
Ed Asbridge, president of the South Hall Republican Club and moderator of the event, inquired whether the candidates would vote for or against the proposed city millage rate of 3.337, the same as it was for the 2015 fiscal year.
By keeping the rate as is, it’s considered a tax increase of 10.39 percent, or around $22 for a home with a fair market value of $175,000.
So that no one would see a tax increase, the millage rate would have to be rolled back to 3.023. Current council members have conducted a first reading to keep the rate as-is.
Mundy, Beatty and Davenport said they would vote against maintaining the millage rate at 3.337, with Kriews, Edwards and Justice saying they would keep it the same.
“I think that we can make do with what we have in the budget right now,” Davenport said. “The way that we’re growing in our community, we are in dire need of services across the board … you have to look at it. I would be against it, but you have to look at it.”
“Based on the knowledge that I have today, considering the growth that the city of Flowery Branch is facing, considering the redevelopment that we’re doing downtown, a large portion of what is in what they’re terming an increase is going into that contingency fund,” Kriews responded.
“I think a tax increase should become the last thing we should look for,” Mundy said, “and increase revenues some other way. But, with that being said, we’ve also had employees who haven’t had raises and have done a lot of work for this community.”
Candidates were also asked for concrete ideas on how they would achieve a goal of theirs if elected to office.
“I’m really interested in the roads being the first place to get things done,” Edwards said. “So people, when they come into Flowery Branch, they don’t have to do a lot of zig-zagging around to try to get anywhere.”
“As the city continues to grow, we’ve got to see our roads improve,” Beatty said. “We’ve got to see our sewer improve. And as more businesses come in, we’re going to have more money coming in and we’ll be able to use those monies. Like with the City Hall that we have now, it’s so small and not a lot of people can get in there.”
The candidates were also complimentary of the current council, though a question regarding revisiting some decisions the council has made did draw some discussion.
“(There was a) discussion about an auditor for the city,” Justice said, referring to the council’s recent approval of Walker, Pierce & Tuck for auditing services. “I understand it’s convenient for staff to maintain the same external auditor, as it is an incorporation. It’s also good to change that up every once in a while. That’s something I would have had a difference of opinion on.”
Kriews and Mundy also said they would have liked to see a request for proposals made for the predesign portion of a new City Hall. Current council members recently approved a contract with Southeastern Engineering, with the first part of that contract costing $65,000 and the second portion at $477,000. A public bid process is not required for professional services.
The Flowery Branch election is June 16, with early voting running through Friday. City residents can vote at City Hall, 5517 Main Street. Candidates must have more than 50 percent of the vote in order to secure the election.