At $116.3 million, the city of Sandy Springs’ proposed budget for fiscal 2020 would be nearly $6 million more than the current fiscal year and a new record, but is expected to include monies for the city’s top priorities, including public safety raises.

“The (fiscal) 2020 budget provides for the same millage rate at 4.731 mills as last year and maintains adequate reserves in the fund balance to ensure sound fiscal integrity of the city,” City Manager John McDonough said. “The (fiscal) 2020 budget includes resources to allow the city to provide a high level of public safety services to the citizens of Sandy Springs and also provides capital funding to address the significant backlog of existing infrastructure deficiencies.”

McDonough gave a presentation during the first public hearing on the fiscal 2020 budget at the June 4 Sandy Springs City Council meeting at City Springs. The second and final hearing will take place at the June 18 meeting, when the council is expected to vote to approve the new budget, which will take effect July 1.

Though the June 4 meeting was the council’s first public hearing on the budget, the group has had a series of meetings and workshops related to the budget and started planning it during its retreat in January, McDonough said.

“So some of the more significant items this year would be the pay increases for police and fire, and one of our top priorities is retention and recruitment of police and fire,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “… Another one of the council’s adopted priorities would be the allocation of significant funding for the north end redevelopment process.

“I think that’s pretty significant, as well as ... one thing you’ve been following is the recent adoption by council of the parks and recreation master plan. We’ve got a significant amount of funding above previous years for parks and recreation. I just got an internal update on that today, so at the next council meeting we’ll be talking about four or five different specific actions in support of those dollars that haven’t been approved by council yet. … I’d say those are three probably three significant ones.”

The new budget calls for $23.8 million for the police department, an increase from $22.8 million the previous fiscal year; $15.6 million for the fire rescue department, up from $15.1 million; and $1.75 million for north end revitalization, a major raise from $250,000, according to city documents. The police and fire budget increases account for raises of 4% for police officers and 5% for firefighters who get FFII certification outlined on Career Matrix.

The parks and recreation department’s budget is going up from $6.3 million ($4.4 million for its general fund and $2.1 million for capital projects) in fiscal 2019 to $7.2 million ($4.0 million for its general fund and $3.2 for capital projects) in fiscal 2020.

In related news, McDonough confirmed he’s one of three finalists for the Greenville, South Carolina, city manager’s position and is in negotiations with Greenville officials, who declared him as their first choice at their city council meeting June 3, according to media reports. The other finalists are Jeff Jones, deputy city manager of Mesquite, Texas, and Dan Hoffman, assistant city manager of Gainesville, Florida.

McDonough, who has been with Sandy Springs since January 2006, about a month after its inception, said he was told by Greenville officials a decision on the contract negotiations will come in a week to 10 days and declined to comment further.

In other meeting news, in addition to speaking about the death of John Galambos, the husband of former Mayor Eva Galambos (see related article), Mayor Rusty Paul said Karen Bragman, 64, a longtime advisor who helped Paul behind the scenes, died of breast cancer May 31.

“She was part of my judicial and city attorney vetting committee,” he said of the attorney. “She took very seriously the practice of law. She was a senior partner at Arnold Golden and Gregory. She did behind-the-scenes work for me so I could make good (hiring) decisions on the judges and city attorney here. She had breast cancer and survived it and then was diagnosed with it again earlier this year.”

Paul also said security has been heightened at City Hall after a man May 31 allegedly killed 12 individuals at a Virginia Beach, Virginia, government office building where he had worked and then was fatally shot by police.

“We’ve added magnetometers to scan for weapons,” he said. “It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to do that, but I’ve got a lot of friends in Virginia Beach. It’s a very sad state of events. People are trying to figure out why someone felt the need to end 12 people’s lives.”

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