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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Atlanta City Council passes budget; includes cash to reach 2,000 police officer goal, arts funding

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM

ARTS AGENDA: Protesters oppose cuts to the arts in 2011. Now, the newly passed budget doubles funding for art grants.
  • Dustin Chambers/CL File
  • ARTS AGENDA: Protesters oppose cuts to the arts in 2011. Now, the newly passed budget doubles funding for art grants.

Rarely does the approval of an Atlanta city budget go so swimmingly.

In 2010, we heard talk of "Centers of Hope" and bonuses for select workers. Last year we expected Atlanta City Councilmembers to start bare-knuckle boxing over plans to overhaul City Hall employees' pension plans.

Last night was different. Nearly two weeks before its July 1 deadline, the Atlanta City Council, without much fanfare or disagreement, OK'ed Mayor Kasim Reed's $542 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

The mayor's office last night trumpeted the following parts of the budget, which doesn't call for hiking taxes or laying off workers:

* Cash to hire 41 additional sworn police officers, which increases the APD force to 2,000 officers, and money for six additional code compliance inspectors
* A deposit in the city's reserves, bringing the rainy day/doomsday fund to more than $110 million, or approximately 20 percent of the city's operating expenses - which the mayor's office says is a first
* The doubling of arts grants funding with additional cash to start a Power2Give campaign
* Money for six additional recreation facility managers to "ensure all facilities with after-school programming have a dedicated facility manager"
* Approximately $200,000 freed up from "contracting and energy savings" dedicated to programs for seniors
* An additional $600,000 to support Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm
* The creation of an International Affairs Office to "raise the international profile of the City" (this will be interesting)
* Approximately $150,000 to pay street cleanup crews
* Cash to operate the city's Office of Sustainability, which the mayor's office says is funded by grants until later this year
* Plan to consolidate the notoriously difficult customer service call center in the Department of Watershed Management and other city departments

Jeremiah McWilliams notes that Councilman C.T. Martin advocated in recent weeks for a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for the city's 7,500 employees, particularly those in the Department of Public Works. (Jim Daws, president of the Atlanta chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, urged Council during public comment to consider the issue as well.) The mayor says the city will instead focus on "targeted raises" to bring some employees up to 80 percent of the salary found elsewhere.

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