Sandy Springs devotes quarter of budget to improvements

Sandy Springs plans to continue to spend nearly a quarter of its annual budget on paving roads, building parks and installing sidewalks.

The city will put $24.1 million into those capital projects, out of a $97 million budget that City Manager John McDonough unveiled Tuesday. By contrast, its contract with CH2M Hill, a private Colorado-based company that runs most of its daily operations, will be $26 million.

Mayor Eva Galambos described it as a "catch-up" situation for the nearly 4-year-old city, which broke off from Fulton County in part because people felt the county neglected those basic duties.

"What we're putting into capital annually is about what the County Commission used to steal from us annually," Galambos said.

The economic downturn forced the city to trim its current budget by about $3 million and the capital projects by about $4 million.

However, the city is using a chunk of a $14.5 million surplus to pour into capital projects as well as its savings account.

The tax rate is slated to remain at 4.7 mills, while adding just one job: a civilian crime analyst with the Police Department.

The department has applied for a federal grant to add 11 officers to its 125-member force. The city's share if that grant is awarded would be about $270,000, which is included in the department's planned budget.

If the grant is not awarded, that money would roll into savings.

"It is expected, the way we budget conservatively, that we will end the year with an operating surplus," said Councilman Rusty Paul.

Public hearings on the budget will be held next Tuesday and June 9. The council is scheduled to adopt the final budget after a hearing on June 16.