Macon City Council member Tom Ellington says the financial numbers for a Macon-Bibb County merger don't add up.
He held a news conference Thursday morning to announce he's against the consolidation vote on the July 31 ballot.
Voters will decide that day whether to merge the city and county governments, the latest step in decades of debate and negotiation.
Bibb County state legislators and some state and county leaders say it's long overdue and will save money in the long run.
But Ellington today said the automatic budget cuts written into the consolidation bill, House Bill 1171, are not realistic. The city and county have combined budgets of about $157 million this year. He said it's unrealistic to think that the budget can be cut by 20 percent in the next five years -- more than $31 million -- without layoffs and service cuts.
He also criticized the "super majority" rule that says six votes will be needed for the new nine-member county commission to pass the budget. He doesn't think it's right that a minority of the commission, just four members, could reject a budget.
Ellington, a Democrat, is in his second term representing Macon's Ward 3.
Council colleague, Larry Schlesinger, would not talk specifically about those bufget issues but said the consolidation plan should still be passed.
He said, "There may well be some cause for concern, but moving forward, I think this is the way that we should go and that is to consolidate. I think we need to expect that we're going to have to deal with some of the imperfections and tweak the whole thing at some point along the way. For me, coming together as one entity overrides any of the imperfections."
We called other members of the Macon city council and Bibb County commission to ask how many agree with Ellington or Schlesinger.
Out of the 17 we contacted, eight said they support consolidation, including Mayor Robert Reichert and County Chairman Sam Hart. City council members Rick Hutto, Nancy White, and Beverly Olson along with commissioners Elmo Richardson and Joe Allen also agree with the merger.
Seven officials said they're against the legislation. That list includes commissioner Lonzy Edwards and city council members Lonnie Miley, Elaine Lucas, James Timley, Henry Gibson, and Henry Ficklin.
Two city council members, Ed DeFore and Charles Jones, said they need more time and information before choosing sides.
Louis Thompkins, Virgil Watkins, and Lauren Benedict from the city, as well as commissioner Bert Bivins, did not return our phone calls.
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