Thursday, February 18, 2010

Atlanta faces $53 million budget gap next year — Updated

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:32 PM

click to enlarge Going once, going twice…
  • Going once, going twice…

After two years of layoffs, service cuts, furloughs, fire station closings and other belt-tightening measures, the city still isn't out of the financial weeds yet, Atlanta's new Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman told Council members this morning.

Speaking at a day-long municipal training session at the Georgia Aquarium, Aman laid out the bitter truth for city officials: The anticipated budget gap for upcoming fiscal year 2011 looks to be nearly $53 million.

Basically, this means that, given the city's current revenue stream and its projected expenditures, FY 2011 would result in a $53 million shortfall if no corrective actions are taken.

Oh, and simply delaying repairs isn't an option, said Aman, who explained that most of the equipment in the sanitation department, for instance, is already beyond its life expectancy and several busy bridges are becoming unsafe for normal traffic.

What's a city to do? Why, come up with more money, of course.

Here are the key plans:

  • Sell the city jail. Why this no-brainer transaction has dragged on so long is something of a mystery. Just last week, the Council approved a resolution — its second so far — in favor of selling the jail to Fulton County, which now rents the facility. As Aman said: "We absolutely need to sell the jail." If the deal goes through, the city would save at least $11 million.
  • Sell City Hall East. The city would've gotten this architecturally significant albatross off its books years ago if it hadn't needed to keep the cops there while building a new police HQ. Unfortunately, the market crash has reduced a pre-bubble payday of $26 million to about half that amount. (The deal likely will be announced next week. You read it here first.) Still, $13 million in cold, hard cash will come in handy for FY 2011.

  • Hand out more traffic tickets, sell liens and generally get tougher with scofflaws. Atlanta police are writing roughly half as many tickets as they did five years ago — despite the fact that the city's population grew by 25 percent! Clearly, traffic enforcement has slumped and, with it, revenue from traffic fines. The city is hoping to ratchet up its collection of a range of fees, fines and service charges.

(Photo courtesy Morsberger Group)

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