It took hours of debate and a saxophone performance, but Fulton County government has finalized its 2020 budget.
The $1.2 billion budget the Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved Wednesday has the county ready to spend $758 million, including $17 million to beef up IT infrastructure and cybersecurity, which has become a major issue for metro Atlanta governments.
The March 2018 ransom cyber attack that halted many systems in the City of Atlanta could cost taxpayers there up to $17 million, according to a report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News. As of December, Henry County had spent $650,000 to restore its network following a similar attack.
Fulton is now investing in new computers, new servers and other cybersecurity measures.
Commissioner Bob Ellis said he didn’t like that Fulton had to be spending so aggressively to catch up, but he said it’s the right thing to do.
“We give you sort of a tough task, then we sit back here and throw rocks at you,” Ellis said to staff who created the budget.
Several residents, who watched the budget debate at the Fulton government center in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday, said the county needed to include more funding for senior services and the arts.
“We are making polices are rules that looks as if the population is youthful. We’re not youthful, and we need to make sure the budget reflects those things,” said Fulton resident Drewnell Thomas.
Thomas said the county should spend more money on programs at the West End Arts Center and the Hammonds House Museum.
During the portion of the Jan. 8 meeting that’s open for public comment, a trio of saxophonists came up and said they speak through music and then filled the commission chambers with the sounds of avant-garde jazz for more than a minute.
Many residents who spoke during the two January meetings thanked Commissioner Natalie Hall for her efforts to fight for more money during the budget process. Hall along with Commissioners Marvin Arrington and Joe Carn voted against the budget.
Another issue of concern for residents is funding for those with HIV/AIDs. One of the requests that wasn’t funded was nearly $1 million for more nurses to help patients with HIV/AIDs, according to a presentation.
Kyle Lamont, president of the Oakland City Neighborhood Association and a 33-year-old gay black man, said he has seen many of his friends die of the disease. Metro Atlanta is among the worst in the nation for new AIDS cases.
“A lot of these requests affects folks’ lives, obviously. But I think a request like this sits at the height of life and death,” Carn said.
County Manager Dick Anderson said there were nearly $150 million in requests from all departments, and the county ended up funding about $84 million of the asks. That includes about $2.6 million in funding for items requested by commissioners, leaving $24 million in unfunded projects from their wish list.
The budget assumes a 3 percent growth, an extra $542 million, in property tax revenue “from the projected impact of new construction and the reassessment of existing property.”
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