Sandy Springs city officials are proposing the first city budget over $100 million since the 2008 economic crash, a sign of slow but steady recovery, officials said at a May 3 City Hall meeting.
The $103.6 million budget for fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1, proposes funding for new parks, sidewalks, police cars and a general manager for the forthcoming performing arts center at the City Springs project, among many other items.
A final draft of the budget goes to City Council at its May 17 meeting, followed by public hearings on June 7 and 21.
The budget projects revenues being up 5.75 percent to $90.7 million, and general fund expenditures up more than 3.4 percent to $103.6 million. The budget also includes carrying over the city’s fiscal 2016 “undesignated fund” balance of $12.9 million.
Some highlights of how the city wants to spend the money:
- All of the firms contracted to provide the city’s outsourced public services are boosting employee pay for a total cost of $16.3 million. City Manager John McDonough said that’s due to retention and hiring issues, with building inspector and traffic engineer positions remaining difficult to fill.
- $416,000 in operating expenses to set up the City Springs performing arts center, expected to open in 2018. That includes an estimated $140,000 per year salary for a general manager. McDonough said the city is negotiating a contract with the theater management company Spectra, a Comcast affiliate, and expects to bring the deal to the City Council in June.
- $3.9 million for several capital projects approved by Mayor Rusty Paul and council members via balloting. In order of priority, they include: traffic signal system improvements; various intersection improvements; new sidewalks; bicycle/pedestrian plan design and implementation; and construction for the new Crooked Creek and Windsor Parkway parks (which received a tie vote and will split funding).
- $3.2 million for more “protective buys” of residential property on Hammond Drive, where the city is considering a road widening. The city recently spent more than $1.2 million to buy three Hammond properties as placeholders for the potential project.
- $500,000 for Lake Forrest Dam repairs. State-ordered repairs to the earthen dam under Lake Forrest Drive on the Atlanta/Sandy Springs border are slow-moving and still have no specific plan. McDonough said the city, which splits the dam costs with Atlanta, is setting aside the $500,000 out of guesswork. But it definitely won’t be enough to complete final repairs, whatever they turn out to be, probably years from now. “This could be a five-plus-million-dollar expenditure,” McDonough said.
- About $2 million in replacing many police, fire rescue and parks vehicles.