Atlanta City Council outlines budget priorities

The Atlanta City Council discussed areas of focus for the upcoming 2017-2018 budgeting process during a meeting Monday evening.
No action was taken during the gathering. Primarily, City Manager David Cockrell offered a rough framework of priorities to guide the group as they begin budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in October.
He said he wants to make sure everyone is, “singing out of the same hymnbook” before budget planning gets underway.
Cockrell said he believes budget goals can be achieved without increasing utility rates or property taxes within the city.
“I’m going to recommend that you let me try to bring you back a budget that, initially at least, makes every effort to waive raising the utility bills four percent,” Cockrell said. 
A built-in inflationary increase would normally increase bills by that amount, but Cockrell expressed a desire to craft a budget that instead keeps the base utility rate stable at its current level.
“There are people out there that are struggling … on a fixed income,” he said. 
Cockrell said that the anticipated retirement of debt in the coming years gives the city the flexibility to consider this approach. He also mentioned that the city is in the process of having a water rate study conducted, and it makes sense to hold the rates until that has been completed.
Though property valuations tend to fluctuate, property tax rates have been stable for five years and Cockrell said the idea is to maintain that during this budget cycle.
Other areas of focus mentioned included additional focus on code enforcement, which could involve changes to some city staff members’ duties; improvements to the city’s mowing program, which  could see the city purchase an additional heavy-duty mower; and continued participation in the HOME Program.
Of code enforcement, Cockrell said, “We’re going to make every effort, when we are fully staffed, to have one full-time person doing nothing but code enforcement. 
“We haven’t had that.”

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