By John Schaffner
Within days of the Atlanta City Council refusing to raise property taxes and telling Mayor Shirley Franklin to find $14.5 million in additional cuts for the passed $571 million 2008-09 budget, council President Lisa Borders, an announced candidate for mayor in the 2009 election, urged council to cut $2 million from its budget to help out the mayor.
Borders, who admits to receiving a somewhat cool reception from council members to the idea, said council members should consider it as city officials attempt to make cuts to avoid additional layoffs.
Some council members said they would have trouble completing community service projects without that money.
The council’s budget for the coming fiscal year is nearly $10 million. Of that, $2 million comes from funds not spent during the fiscal year that ended June 30.That is the $2 million Borders thinks the council should give back.
The council had already cut its own budget by $1.3 million for the new fiscal year, which began July 1.
Meanwhile, Dist. 9 City Councilwoman Felicia Moore, responding to council’s unhappiness with the way the budget process has worked, is introducing legislation to reverse changes in city personnel policies that council enacted overwhelmingly last year in an effort to give council more say in decision-making. The move would especially involve council in making decisions on who gets laid off at the city, which now rests solely with the mayor.
At the same time, Buckhead’s representatives on council, Howard Shook of Dist. 7 and Clair Muller Dist. 8 were making the rounds of the Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) in their districts explaining what they had done in passing a balanced city budget for 2008-09 and suggesting actions that should be taken to eliminate similar budget crises in the future.
Councilwoman Muller attended the meetings of NPU-A and NPU-C on July, which meet within a quarter mile of each other in Buckhead. “The administration did suggest a tax increase, which the council, after a lot of deliberation and work sessions, felt was not the best solution.”
She explained how council accommodated for the more than $19 million that was set to come from increasing property taxes and cutting personnel from departments like code enforcement and the public defender’s and solicitor’s offices. Instead, Muller said, council voted for a $1.3 million reduction in its own budget and a more than $14.5 million decrease to the General Fund.
“It has been really, really painful, and the council feels that we need to suffer as much as the administrative side,” Muller said. “Everyone is scrambling now to look at where that $14 million will come from.”
Muller added she is looking at selling tax delinquencies as a means to increase revenues to the city “so you get that money upfront instead of letting it trickle down for 15 years.”
Meanwhile, on the east side of Peachtree, Councilman Shook was meeting with NPU-B and suggesting forming subcommittees that look for revenue sources that are not adequately being tapped.
“Impact fees haven’t been changed in 20 years,” he said. “Let’s start now. Let’s build up revenue from people who really are underpaying and getting a free ride in terms of city services,”