When it comes to growth, Leonard said that the city council has done a great job in “terrible economic times” the past eight years.
“During these years I have helped guide the city though some of the most challenging financial times in recent memory,” Leonard said. “During these times we have seen the greatest growth in the history of Woodstock while maintaining a balanced budget, without sacrificing city services and without having to lay off city employees.”
Leonard said if a city is not growing, it’s “becoming stagnant and going backwards.”
“Growth in Woodstock is the life blood of the community as a whole and yes, we should continue to grow and insure Woodstock remains a city where our businesses can grow, our children can forge a future and have unlimited potential,” Leonard said. “Our downtown is the heart of the city and if it is healthy, our entire city will benefit.”
But Jones sees the city’s growth differently. She said with the growth, the city has also gotten some problems.
“The city of Woodstock is amazing, with one exception: Roads and traffic should have been taken care of first and then there might not be the extreme traffic problem, which as of now, the roads are to be dug up and some buildings torn down and almost half of the City Park torn down as well. Is this acceptable? No. There has been a lot of carts being put before the horses and it is time to say ‘no more,’” Jones said.
“The Outlet Mall of Atlanta will not have to pay property taxes for 10 years. That would have helped the financial mess that this city is in and also buying a lot, that might be pushing it, two acres for a quarter of a million dollars. Do I need to say more?” she said.
Jones said she is not pleased with how the city has handled the millage rate.
“I am not proud of the 7.889 millage rate, really, just a few years ago after I left the council we were at 5.889, then it all changed and starting going up during the worst recession this country has seen in years and years,” Jones said. “Yet when it hit 7.889 a few years back, it didn’t lower property taxes even if our property value went down. Dear citizens, we need to give this city back to you, because we are elected to serve you and not be self-serving.”
Leonard said the millage rate went up to keep taxes at a “fairly level rate” as the tax digest declined.
“From fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2013, we have reduced the overall budget from $38 million in 2006 to $33 million for 2014. Our millage rate has gone from 5.88 to about 7.88 as the tax digest has gone down. This is to insure taxes stay at a fairly level rate for homeowners,” Leonard said.
The past five years have seen one slight tax increase, one tax decrease and three revenue neutral years, he said.
“Doing this during terrible economic times is quite an accomplishment. Despite this, we finished fiscal year 2013 with over a million dollars in budget surplus and debt has been reduced to just over $44 million,” Leonard said.
Jones said, though, that she didn’t trust the financial reports from the city, and she is waiting for the 2013 audit completion.
“I have been in office before, when I left in 2005 we had $6 million in reserve, and now we are over $48 million in debt, and yes, the city manager has spoken quite a few times about the city being only $44 million in debt, yes, they have possibly paid a few things off, but they have also continued to spend,” Jones said. “The audit will not be completed for 2013 until the last day of December, then we will see how much it really is.”
Leonard said that he is proud to be part of an “ongoing process to make Woodstock even better.”
“The growth Woodstock has been experiencing over the past few years is very exciting and is a testament to the vision, the careful planning, prudent management and conservative leadership of our mayor and city council. This growth and prosperity has made Woodstock the envy of our state because it’s been done with minimal impact to our city’s tax digest and property taxes,” Leonard said. “Intelligent growth is what brings new businesses to Woodstock which, in turn, brings new jobs to our community and that invigorates our economy. By doing this we grew our tax digest which will result in lower taxes and better services for all our citizens now and in the future.”
Jones said that her experience and commitment to Woodstock make her the best candidate for the Ward 5 Woodstock city council seat.
“In 1996 to 1998, I served on the Woodstock Centennial Committee and helped to get the City Park, as well as other people who served on the Centennial Committee,” Jones said.
Experience, knowledge and ability, along with a passion to serve, are what make Leonard the best candidate, he said.
“I retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a first sergeant and was in charge of over 200 soldiers, both stateside and overseas during Operation Enduring Freedom. I have owned a successful small business for more than 26 years, I am an ordained minister with a bachelor’s degree in theology and I have served on the city council for the last eight years,” Leonard said. “I am a proven leader, a proven business owner and have proven myself as a city leader and a team player. I have served with honesty, mutual respect for our citizens, our staff and my peers. I have served with unquestioned integrity. That’s why I’m running for a third term.”
Leonard said his investment in the city and community are a passion that stems from his service to the country.
“My commitment to service to others is a life-long commitment. I retired from the U.S. Army in 2004 with 28 years of total service. After retirement, I decided to run for city council in 2005 and was elected,” Leonard said. “I am also an officer in South Cherokee American Legion Post 316, which serves our city and our veterans”
Jones said she helped to change the city for the better.
“I created Woodstock, as Tree City U.S.A. along with the votes of the other council members, I also take a lot of pride in being the council member to ask to have prayer in City Hall before council meetings, I along with the others voting too, did something that had not been done before. It is important to ask God for guidance,” Jones said.
Jones said she wanted to thank her supporters in the campaign.
“I helped the citizens before I went into office and I continued to take calls and help them the eight years I was out of office, and I will continue to serve the people. That is what it is all about, serving the people and once I am sworn in we will go back to letting the citizens speak at the council meetings about things on that night’s agenda,” she said. “The citizens vote us in and it is the citizens we serve in whatever capacity we possibly can.”
Meet the Candidate
Bud Leonard (I)
Occupation: Small business owner