By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny focused her town hall meeting report to constituents Feb. 11 on the financial position of Sandy Springs, stating the city, in its second 12-month budget cycle, paid off its loan in the 2007 fiscal year and is closing in on a “rainy day fund” reserve of $12.7 million.

Assisted by Steve Rapson, the city’s chief financial officer, McEnerny reported to some 50 attendees that the city saved $9 million in 2007 on revenues of $77 million. The city was $4.6 million ahead of revenue projections for 2007.

To date, Sandy Springs is ahead in real estate collections by 5 percent and in local option sales tax collections by $500,000. Total revenues to date are ahead by $6.8 million, McEnerny reported.

“Every governmental entity is concerned about its credit rating,” she said. “It has been our aim to be on very, very solid financial footing.

“In general, the cities of Georgia have between three and seven employees per 1,000 residents. We have 1.44 employees per 1,000 residents,” she noted.

McEnerny said the city’s main long-term financial obligations are fire equipment, police cars and a fire station at Heards Ferry Road. Originally council allocated $11 million, which is now down to $8.5 million for cars and equipment, and $285,000 annually for the fire station.

“That’s it. We have no TADs (tax allocation districts). We have no bonds. We have no liabilities,” she said. “We also don’t have any pension liabilities for our employees” but the city offers an attractive 401-K plan to attract very qualified people, she added.

McEnerny also explained that every city budget has a contingency fund and every line item (department) has a contingency that is part of the overall contingency. She said that fund started at about $5.9 million this year and $5.2 million of the contingency is remaining.

Roads, sidewalks and public safety were the major concerns of the approximately 50 residents who attended the meeting at the Holy Spirit Preparatory School on Long Island Drive. The city has allocated $250,000 for sidewalks, primarily around public schools. She said a policy exists that if neighborhoods put up 25 percent of the cost of sidewalks, the city will match that with 75 percent when the funds are allocated.

District 1 City councilman Doug MacGinnitie, who also attended the meeting, said instead of spending $6.5 million on roads, he favored spending that money on sidewalks. As the newest member of the Sandy Springs City Council, MacGinnitie attended McEnerny’s town hall to get some face time with the general public.

MacGinnitie is holding his first town hall meeting on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 4:30 p.m. at The Brandon Hall School, 1701 Brandon Hall Drive.

Mark Sampl asked both city council members if the widening of roads in Sandy Springs is for the city’s residents or for people from Cobb County who pass through the city going between their homes and work near Perimeter Mall.

Discussing public safety issues, McEnerny said property theft has been increasing in the city since October, most of it theft from cars. She said the city has 110 uniformed police officers, which is 2.6 times the number of police on the streets compared to when Fulton County providing the police services.

In terms of response time by the fire department, McEnerny said the western end of her District 6 is the furthest from a fire station and response time often runs nine to 12 minutes.

Police strive for 6-minute response time and hit it 92 percent of the time, she said.

McEnerny reported the city is planning to take over the ambulance contract from Fulton County and will hire an independent service in order to get to 6-minute response times.

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