Atlanta’s $637M budget proposal boosts spending for police and fire

Mayor Kasim Reed addresses public comments opposing the sale of Underground Atlanta to the real estate investment group WRS, Inc. Despite those that came forward in opposition, the board approved the sale. (DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL) AJC FILE PHOTO

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Mayor Kasim Reed addresses public comments opposing the sale of Underground Atlanta to the real estate investment group WRS, Inc. Despite those that came forward in opposition, the board approved the sale. (DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL) AJC FILE PHOTO

Mayor Kasim Reed has proposed a $637 million general fund budget for his last year in office, one that will see funding for police and fire departments increase while taking a bite out of the mayor’s office.

The city expects general fund revenues to increase 4.9 percent in fiscal 2018 over the current year, while total operating funds – which includes building permits, airport and emergency 911 funds – will add up to about $2.04 billion, up 1.5 percent from 2017.

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Channel 2's Richard Belcher reports.

“This is my final budget as mayor, and I do believe it is the culmination of everything we have built over the past seven years,” Reed said in a letter presenting the budget to the Atlanta City Council. ‘We have balanced every budget, improved our credit rating to AA+/Aa1, and built our audited cash reserves to more than $150 million.”

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During his two terms, Reed has presided over budgets that have grown as the city and the national economy have ticked up. Tech sector businesses have brought the city thousands of jobs, construction work is on the rise and the metro area’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent, according to March figures from the state department of revenue.

Reed's proposal would increase general fund spending for the department of police services by 4.92 percent — $188.7 million in fiscal 2018 compared to $180.2 million the year prior. The department of fire services would receive around $85.4 million in 2018 compared to $79.8 million in 2017, up 6.9 percent. Fiscal 2018 begins July 1.

The law department also will get a funding boost — jumping almost 16 percent from around $5.9 million to $6.8 million.

“The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget will mark the third consecutive year of having a balanced budget without the utilization of reserves,” CFO Jim Beard said in a letter to council.

The City Council, however, will see its budget cut 12.08 percent under the proposal, dropping from $12.76 million to $11.2. The mayor's office will take a 0.9 percent hit, dropping from a little over $34.1 million to about $33.7 million.

Salary costs are expected to increase, rising from $99.69 million in 2017 to about $110.7 million in the new fiscal year.

The heads of different departments have been taking their budgets to the City Council for review for the past month. The council is expected to vote June 19, a spokesman for the council said.

A digital copy of the proposed FY18 city budget can be viewed on the city of Atlanta's website.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the budget in its chambers at 6:15 p.m. Thursday as well as stream the proceedings live on Channel 26. Residents can submit questions on Twitter at @ATLCouncil, hashtag #atlFY2018budget or call 404-330-6309 or text 404-392-0159.

“We are trying to meet people where they are and how they want to communicate,” City Councilwoman Felicia Moore said about the idea behind using social media to address the budget.

The AJC’s Leon Stafford keeps you updated on the latest in the Atlanta mayoral race and everything else going on at City Hall. You’ll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Explore• Former police chief Pennington dies
Explore• After 44 years, Atlanta may elect a white mayor in 2017
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