Consolidation committee appointed for Macon-Bibb

The Macon-Bibb County Consolidation Transition Task Force, appointed with unifying the governments of Bibb County and the cities of Macon and Payne City, met for the second time on September 19.
Voters approved the consolidation of the three governments July 31 by a margin of 56.7 percent.
“[Consolidation is]  an opportunity to have a more efficient and effective government,” said President William Underwood of Mercer University.
Georgia’s General Assembly approved the consolidation of Macon, Payne City, and Bibb County with the passing of House Bill 1171 last spring.
“If consolidation continues on schedule, the newly unified government of Macon-Bibb County will assume control January 2014,” said Underwood.
Section 37 of House Bill 1171 mandated that a 15 member transition task force be created “for the purpose of planning and preparing for the assumption of governmental powers by the restructured governing authority.”
The legislation goes on to specify that the first ten members shall be elected officials from both the Bibb County and Macon governments.
The task force used an earlier meeting on September 11 to fill the seats of five subcommittees: a Finance Committee, Facilities Committee, Technology Committee, Human Resources Committee, and Laws Committee.  Each committee consists of members of the larger consolidation task force.
President Underwood was appointed to the Finance and Human Resources Committee. Underwood is meeting with the Finance Committee on Wednesday Sept. 26.
“The truth is that I don’t have time for it, but it is so important to the community that I made time for it,” said Underwood.
The second meeting focused largely on the growing pains associated with combining the two distinct entities.  Underwood said that the county and city governments operate with two different software systems: payroll schedules and pension plans.
House bill 1171 mandates that the budget of the restructured government not exceed the combined regular budgets of the separate governments.
Unfortunately, unified Macon-Bibb County automatically moves certain budget exemptions back into the regular budget, increasing the operating costs of of the new government before it even forms.
“We’ve begun a process of developing a budget,” said Underwood.
Another concern of the committee is job security for current city and county officials. Some positions may become redundant, forcing the the county to choose between city and county employees.
Pension plans may also be in jeopardy as Macon and Bibb County use two different systems. However, a new pension plan may be created for new employees while veteran employees are kept on their old plans under the new government.