The police, fire, transportation, parks department are set to get the bulk of the city’s funding for the next year. Other highlights include funding increases for youth centers, pre-arrest diversion efforts, homeless prevention and tech infrastructure upgrades.
The budget is balanced and would increase the city’s reserves without selling off any assets or increasing the property tax rate, according to the mayor’s office. Still, residents’ property taxes are likely to increase if the appraised value of their homes goes up.
The council approved the budget just after 4 p.m., much earlier than usual. Rather, much of the jockeying over city funding happened before Tuesday. While former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration, for example, did not make any high-profile changes to its proposed budget last year before the council made tweaks and voted on it, Dickens’ office amended its proposal a couple times after public pushback.
In mid-May, the mayor said he would allocate $7 million in his proposed budget to a trust fund dedicated to affordable housing, after councilmembers and housing advocates were surprised to see it was left out of his initial draft. The City Council established the fund last year to dedicate a small percentage of the general fund to housing. Those funds are coming from a decrease in “consulting/professional services” costs.
Dickens also increased raises for firefighters after the local firefighters union said the previously announced raises didn’t meet recommendations from a pay study. The $1 million increase for additional firefighter raises are coming out of the Atlanta Department of Transportation’s budget.
Dickens said those moves speak to his approach as a leader.
“I am somebody who is open to input. ‘Hey, we can do more’ is music to my ears. ‘We can do more more’ doesn’t push me away, it pushes me in,” he said.
Progressive activists pushed back on the increases to the city’s police and jail budgets, but those funding streams remained largely unchanged. Dickens also announced bonuses to the city’s police officers earlier this month, using funding from the American Rescue Plan.
“The result is a very robust budget that includes a lot of actions that will move our city forward,” said Councilman Alex Wan, who led the committee that oversees the budget.