City proposes $539 million in spending for 2014

The Atlanta City Council on Thursday got its first glimpse at a proposed $539 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year Thursday, setting the stage for a summer’s worth of debate and budget negotiations.

City CFO Jim Beard presented an abbreviated version of budget in a briefing during the council’s spring retreat.

As proposed, the budget continues a trend during Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration of less spending. The current city budget is $542 million, which is down from $551 million the previous year. The city’s projected revenues for the year should be $527 million and officials predict spending will be $522 million, which would give the city a $4.22 million surplus.

Specific details of the proposed budget were not available, and council members haven’t yet been provided budget books.

“The administration just signed off on the budget [Wednesday],” Beard said, adding that the books would be delivered to the council immediately.

The proposed budget does not call for tax increases or layoffs in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Among the notable items, the administration proposes:

  • maintaining a police force of 2,000 officers, as well as the current staffing level in the fire department, and reopening Fire Station 7 in the West End.
  • maintaining the general fund reserves at or above 20 percent, or $107 million.
  • expanding the Centers of Hope program by two additional facilities.
  • launching the city’s 311 system to help respond and track constituent requests.

While there is a $2.7 million proposal for “employee enhancements,” the budget does not include raises for city employees.

Although no action was expected to take place at Thursday’s meeting, the most vigorous debate surrounded the council’s budget.

The early version of the budget called for the city council’s staff, among other departments, to receive less than it currently gets.

But within hours, the issue was dealt with as Reed adjusted his proposed budget to restore the Department of Council’s budget to what it currently is — $7.62 million — and added in money for salary increases for a total of $8.3 million.

Earlier, Beard had suggested the council’s budget would be cut by between $150,000 and $200,000.

Council members had requested that their budget remain at the 2013 level, adding that they were never brought in to any discussions about their budget getting cut.

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