By a vote of 15-0, the council adopted an operating budget of $2.1 billion for fiscal ’19. The general fund appropriation, which supports city services such as police, fire and parks, as well as planning, community development and administrative support services, is set at $661.3 million for the coming fiscal year.
The budget is based on a projected modest 2.5 percent growth in the value of new construction in the city.
The fiscal ’19 city budget reflects an added:
o $2.6 million investment in parks and recreation upgrades;
o $1 million for the city’s funding and support of the arts;
o $3 million for information technology to improve cyber security;
o $1.2 million to establish a citywide maintenance cleanup crew;
o $258,336 for the city’s ethics department;
o $110,000 for the city’s audit department;
o $1,000 one-time bonus for the city’s correctional officers and personnel; and
o $500 one-time bonus for all the city’s general employees.
For the ninth straight year, fiscal ’19 will also include a modest reduction in city property taxes for ratepayers said District 7 Councilman Howard Shook, who represents part of Buckhead and chairs the council’s finance/executive committee.
“I think the residents need to understand that for years now, we have not raised the city’s millage rate,” Shook said in a news release. “In fact, we have rolled them back. It’s called living within your means without having the kneejerk reaction of turning to ratepayers during the worst and best of economic conditions.”
Calling the process of approving a new city budget remarkable, Shook said, “This has me thinking of some of the great things we can do by working together.”
In a news release, Council President Felicia Moore said, “I want to thank the mayor and her team. This has been a good collaborative budget process between the council and the administration. This was also one of the smoother budget adoption processes I’ve seen in 20 years.
“This budget represents a significant and ongoing investment in service areas that directly impact the quality of life of our residents. We are pleased that after a series of departmental hearings and a well-attended public hearing, we were able to work with the administration to make the necessary adjustments to better serve the needs of our city.”
The fiscal 2019 budget had to be approved by July 1, the date the fiscal year begins.
Vince Champion, the Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and director of the Atlanta Police Department’s union, said the raise helps but is not enough to help the department accomplish its goals.
“If you’re a ranking commanding officer it’s great, but if you’re an officer making $40,000 a year, it averages out to about $30 per paycheck,” he said. “We thought it might be a little more. It doesn’t help a lot as much as we were thinking and hoping for the rank-and-file, boots-on-the-ground police officers.”
Champion said he was hoping for a step increase that would include raises not only in the coming fiscal year but in the ones after it. That would help the department, which he said has between 1,400 and 1,500 officers, get up to 1,900 or even 2,000 officers and boost morale in the process.
“We were hoping it would be an overall benefits package of not necessarily a step pay plan but some method to show (officers) would get 3 percent one year and then 3.5 percent the next year and so on … and the benefits will get better and the benefits will get better,” Champion said. “We’ll see where we go from there. (The 3.1 percent raise) is not going to help retention, by no means.”
News Editor Everett Catts contributed to this report.