Albany community asks commissioners for more say in SPLOST spending

People Questioning how tax dollars are spent

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - People in Albany are beginning to question how city leaders decide which projects to spend tax dollars on.

A recent vote to spend more than $1 million on new software sparked their concerns Tuesday.

People in Albany are worried they aren’t being included in conversations about how their tax dollars are being spent.

They said they voted for SPLOST VII, and now they said they’re worried their voices may not matter as much anymore.

More than the money, residents are concerned they’re not being included in the conversation in the first place.

“We need to have dialogue. We need to talk about what do the citizens need, what do the citizens want,” said Chad Warbington, an Albany resident.

Warbington told city commissioners he’s concerned there’s a lack of dialogue regarding how tax dollars are spent.

“Make sure they are approving projects, funding projects that we intended because really a SPLOST referendum is a contract between the citizens and our elected leaders,” said Warbington.

The issue came up when commissioners approved spending more than $1 million on new utilities billing software. Which has some questioning how big the community’s say in decisions like this are.

“Really, I think it’s important to have those discussions with our elected leaders to say, ‘Hey, this is what we intended as citizens when we voted for the SPLOST,’” said Warbington.

City leaders said SPLOST will fund the billing software in this case because it’s listed under technology infrastructure.

While Warbington isn’t questioning the legality of using funds in this case, he is questioning what else can be done to better include residents in these decisions.

“A lot of communities around us, they stream their meetings. You can go back if you can’t watch it live, you can watch it recorded,” said Warbington.

More from the Albany City Commission:

Albany Utilities Billing Software

Albany City leaders will spend more than $1 million on new billing software.

They said it will help you in the long run when you pay your utility bill.

The new utilities billing software is supposed to be more up-to-date and more user friendly.

City leaders said the current software is outdated and doesn’t give you, the user, enough information.

The city will now hire a new company, Tyler Technologies.

It will cost $1.2 million to hire the company for three years.

“The main benefit is functionality. The software that we have been using is outdated and functionality that is necessary to run the business effectively just doesn’t live in that software anymore. So we’re in need of an update,” said Steven Carter, the City of Albany’s chief information officer.

The contract is still being signed.

You should be able to start using the new software in about nine months.

Also from Tuesday’s meeting:

With his retirement just a few months away, Phoebe Putney’s CEO Joel Wernick addressed Albany city commissioners for most likely the last time.

Wernick’s biggest updates for city leaders Tuesday were about the hospital’s progress during and after Hurricane Michael.

Wernick said the hospital’s lights never went off during the storm. He said all 4,000 employees kept the hospital up and running in a time when the staff was desperately needed.

Wernick also addressed the hospital’s economic impact on the city.

“We do pay taxes. That’s probably one of the misnomers that people forget. We pay around $1 million in property taxes each year,” said Wernick.

Wernick also introduced Scott Steiner, who will replace him as CEO.

Wernick will retire in May of this year.

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