Johns Creek plans move away from privatized service

At a special workshop Monday evening, city officials unveiled a proposed 2011 budget of $55.2 million that would cut the city's contract with CH2M Hill from about $17 million in 2010 to $5 million in 2011.

"As the city has matured, it is now better positioned to operate its own services," City Manager John Kachmar wrote in remarks to the City Council.

Much of the savings will be used to hire staff formerly provided by the company and for one-time transition expenses, such as the purchase of office and computer equipment, software and conversion of vehicles to city ownership. CH2M Hill would still provide public works and community development services.

Like its neighbor Milton, Johns Creek's budget runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Both cities also have a cap of 4.731 mills on property. A tax rate higher than that would require a referendum.

Johns Creek is facing a decline in property values, meaning if the millage rate stays the same it will bring in less money.

Finance Director Monte Vavra said the city's tax digest fell from $4.04 billion last year to $3.9 billion this year. Nevertheless, Vavra said, the budget is being built to allow for the drop in revenue without increasing the property tax levy of 4.614 mills.

The budget includes $45.2 million in operating expenses and $5.9 million in capital expenses. It anticipates revenue of $15.5 million from property taxes and $15.7 million from sales taxes.

The Police Department's 2011 budget decreased by $591,000. The majority of the reduction comes from one-time costs related to new record-keeping software. The number of people in the department remains at 70, with 61 sworn officers.

In the Fire Department, no new positions or staff cuts are expected. The city will continue to fully staff and operate its three fire stations.

The capital project list includes intersection improvements at Jones Bridge and Buice roads, and Jones Bridge and Morton roads.

The final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Aug. 30 at City Hall. The council is expected to adopt the final millage rate after that hearing.

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