Guest Column
John S. Sherman, president
Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation

We in the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation congratulate Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on his election. We want him to know we are eager to work with him and his staff to transform Atlanta into “a shining city on the hill.”Mayor Reed, the Taxpayers Foundation extends to you its fullest cooperation. Many of our members – Atlanta taxpayers — are professionals or retired professionals who would be pleased to help our city at no cost to taxpayers. Several years ago, six engineers who were members of the foundation volunteered to review water and sewer contracts. The offer was refused. Today, the need for professional oversight is more important than ever. In addition to engineers, volunteers providing professional oversight to city finances and operations should include accountants, volunteer human resources executives and pension lawyers.Mayor, we know you face a massive challenge of turning around the city. Here are some suggestions of ways citizens can help.

1. Professional Audits of city finances operations.Mayor Reed, to help you and the taxpayers grasp the problem, there must be professional audits of city finances and operations, including the General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Debt Service Fund, Capital Projects Fund, Enterprise Funds, Internal Service Fund, and Trust & Agency Funds. With the differing financial variations and internal transfer of massive funds from one department to another, professional audits will highlight the full extent of the problem. Many of our members are CPAs and retired CPAs who would be pleased to volunteer their services.

2. Appointment of “the best and brightest.”To turn around a billion dollar operation will require the appointment of the best and the brightest professional team. The city’s chief of staff, chief financial officer, airport director, department heads, city attorney, police chief and other managers be replaced with top-notch professional managers. A blue-ribbon advisory committee should advise you on these appointments.

3. Outsource city services.At a time of sharply-declining revenues, it would be helpful to you to consider the Turnaround Plan of 2002 which proposed outsourcing the 12 major city services, with city employees competing with the private firms to achieve what the plan called “significant savings.” Not one of the 12 major services has been outsourced, yet the outsourcing would result in huge potential savings.One of our members, Oliver Porter, was the Consultant on Outsourcing to Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Dunwoody.

4. Adopting performance-based metrics for every city job.The city of Atlanta employs 8,300 employees. Too many under perform. By adopting “performance-based metrics,” standards of job performance, you will be able to cull the under-performing and reward the higher performing. You have said changing the service standards of the city is a top priority for your administration. Several of our members specialize in performance-based metrics. These members would be pleased to help the city.

5. Rescinding retroactive pension benefits.In 2001 and 2005, when Atlanta City Council increased city pension benefits, the council included retroactive benefits with a multiplier of three. Many attorneys who  specializing in pension law feel the retroactive portion of this legislation is illegal. With the shortfall of $1.2 billion in the city’s three pension funds (police, fire and general employees), the cost to the taxpayers is $100 million annually, 20% of the entire general fund budget.

6. A review of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport contracting and purchasing.In the best interest of the taxpayers, the Taxpayers Foundation urges a forensic audit of the airport’s contracting and purchasing operations.
The Taxpayers Foundation wants to help Mayor Reed meet these challenges.