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Letter: Powder Springs, Did You Know?

Those age 65 or older have opportunities to lower their tax and trash-collection bills. But something all voting citizens have in common is the ability to bring in elected officials who allow professional department heads to do their jobs.

Did you know that if you are age 65 or more, you can lower your city property taxes by a substantial amount each year by answering a few questions and signing a form at ?

Through the Elderly Homestead Exemption, city of Powder Springs homeowners who are age 65 or older can qualify to have an additional $10,000 exempted from the value of their homes that is subject to city property tax. Lower valuation means less tax to be paid. See the receptionist at City Hall.

Did you know that you can cut your city trash collection fee in half if you are age 65 or older?

City residents typically pay $18.50 per month for trash pickup, but if you have reached that magic age of 65, you can apply at City Hall to have your trash collection fee reduced to $9.25—a 50% savings.

Again, see the folks at City Hall for the short form you need to complete; take your driver’s license or other form of identification in case you are asked to show how old you are.

Did you know that the city of Powder Springs is operated under the council-manager form of government?

The type of government that we have and who is given responsibility for the operation of the city is spelled out in detail in the city's charter. Each municipality in Georgia must have a charter approved by the state General Assembly.

Think of a city charter as being comparable to the United States Constitution, only on a local level; it spells out our form of government, sets responsibilities to be followed by elected officials, as well as those higher-ranking ones who are appointed, and sets out the rules for getting things done.

Our charter has been developed over a number of years and can be changed with the consent of the General Assembly. In the charter, the specific duties of the mayor, council members, and city manager are given, as well as who various department heads report to, and who has overall operational responsibilities for seeing that the city is run on a day-to-day basis.

The mayor and council have the job of setting overall policy and the general direction of the city; these are political decisions made by folks who have been elected by a majority of our voting residents.

If you don’t like the general direction of the city, you have a vote every four years to make changes in those who make these political decisions about the type of city we have and the overall way it is run.

The charter strictly forbids elected officials from interfering with the day-to-day operation of the city. That’s why we have a city manager, a professional who has the education and experience in running the various departments. 

The city manager is the person all department heads report to and is in charge of all the departments and functions of all the folks who work for the city of Powder Springs. Of course, as it has been said, we all have a boss, and the boss of the city manager is the City Council, who can hire and fire the city manager.

This whole idea of the council-manager form of government came about in the early 1900s when towns and cities were growing at a fast rate, and municipal governments became the operators of police departments, water departments, sewer systems, fire departments and billing departments for government services.

It was soon realized that the ordinary citizen who ran for office did not have the knowledge, skills and ability to know how to operate these various departments—professional, experienced help was needed to make sure town- and city-run services were managed in an effective and efficient manner.

Look around at the elected officials our city has had; what part of most people’s background gives them expertise in these areas? Even people with big-business backgrounds have little experience managing the day-to-day operations of multiple departments who are trying to get the most for each tax dollar and are not concerned with making a profit for the shareholders.

Professional city managers have typically received master’s degrees in public administration and have gained their experience with a number of years in various cities’ departments as they worked their way “up the ladder” to have the knowledge to become a city manager and run towns and cities in an effective manner based on the guidelines set out by the politically motivated elected officials.

There is a clear separation between the political and the operational aspects of local governance. Any confusion between the professional managers and elected officials can be disastrous for the taxpayer.

Elected officials (politicians) often have different perspectives on problem-solving than do the professional managers and department heads. In my view, the main difference is that the manager must often say “NO” because of personnel and budgetary constraints while the politically motivated elected official may want to do something that pleases the most people or the most influential citizens.

Politicians, it seems, rarely want to say “NO” because it is negative and “YES” usually gets more votes.

Powder Springs has been blessed with having department heads and managers with professional-grade expertise who have taken direction from its elected officials.

These folks who do the taxpayer’s work to enable the city to operate efficiently should be lauded and the citizens should expect no less of their elected officials to hire the best qualified people to operate the city as your City Charter demands.

—Ra Barr, Powder Springs

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