The Marietta City Council approved a $372 million budget Wednesday night that includes 3% raises for all staff and a slight tax decrease.
It passed 5-1-1, with Reggie Copeland opposed and Joseph Goldstein abstaining. Goldstein abstained due to his family’s financial interests in properties affected by the budget.
The raises will go into effect at the start of the fiscal 2022, which begins July 1.
Copeland had wanted to increase the proposed raises from 3% to 5%. That would have increased the cost of the raises from $1.4 million to $2.4 million over the course of the fiscal year.
The overall millage rate is 4.992 mills, down from 5.117 in fiscal 2021. This is due to a lower redevelopment bond millage rate.
Marietta’s general fund — the main operating fund of the city which pays for normal operations such as police, fire, public works, parks and recreation — is budgeted to receive and spend $63.28 million, an increase of $2.08 million or 3.4% from the previous year’s budget.
The city also approved $1.1 million in annual tourism grants that had been applied for and reviewed during the budget process. Funding was awarded to several city-sponsored festivals, the Strand Theatre, the Georgia Metro Dance Theatre, Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, Marietta Museum of History, Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum and several other cultural and arts organizations.
Copeland, the Ward 5 councilman, had proposed increasing the amount of money transferred from the Marietta Board of Lights and Water into the city’s general fund.
The BLW governs city-provided utilities and transfers millions in utility profits to the city on an annual basis, helping to pay for the general fund and enabling the city to grow the budget without increasing taxes. In fiscal 2022, the BLW transfer accounts for $13.8 million, about 22% of the city’s general fund.
Other council members balked at Copeland’s idea at a Monday work session, saying the BLW would have to raise utility rates to compensate. Copeland had proposed another option — funding the increased plans with federal COVID-19 stimulus funds.
However, council members pointed out that the federal money had not yet been received by the city and would come with yet-to-be-announced restrictions on how it could be used.
Copeland ended up making a recommendation to give $900,000 of the $11 million anticipated stimulus funds to employees, in the form of salary or bonuses. He said that would be enough to give everyone a $1,200 bonus. The motion failed for lack of a second, and the budget was passed with the recommended 3% raises.
In other business, a final plat was approved for the Cottages at Keeler Woods, a planned subdivision of 27 detached, single-family homes on 6.6 acres off Polk Street between Mountain View and Burnt Hickory Roads.
The final plat is the last step of the city’s approval process — houses can now be permitted and built by Elliott Homes, the Marietta-based developer behind the project.
A revamping of the city’s traffic calming policy received tentative approval but will head back to the Public Works Committee for further edits and refinement and face another vote later.
Finally, a plan to install a pollinator garden at Kirby Park was approved. The city plans to partner with a Boy Scout to complete the project, which is intended to serve educational and environmental purposes.