By John Schaffner

Mayor Eva Galambos characterized the state of the city of Sandy Springs as “good … not excellent because of the state of the economy,” but better than many other local and state governments.

She said the city is halfway into its $98.8 million budget for this fiscal year and is operating a half-million dollars to the good. That, she pointed out, is with revenues being down some $2 million.

Galambos said the surplus reflects reduced expenses, such as unfilled positions in city government.

But she told some 60 alumni members of Leadership Sandy Springs who gathered at City Hall for the “state of the city” update Jan. 26 that revenue from city permits is down severely. On the other hand, sales tax revenues are “not down too much.”

The city is about on projections, she added.

“All in all, revenues will continue to fall,” the mayor said. She said occupational taxes, which are based on gross revenues, are likely be down. She said many of the real estate property taxes are on appeal.

Galambos said the city has two huge cushions to absorb the reductions in revenues: the city’s reserves from previous years and the capital improvement budget, because some of the projects can be put on hold.

“We can feel secure,” the mayor said.

She said the major capital improvement allocations are for transportation, including the half-diamond interchange at Hammond Drive and Ga. 400, design work on the widening of Hammond Drive from Ga. 400 to Roswell Road, street repaving, and sidewalks.

She said the first facilities expenditure the city will need to consider is a new police station, since the lease on the present location at Hammond Drive and Barfield Road is near its end.

The mayor said the Community Development Department is reviewing policies made in the city’s early days, such as the streetscape policy. The review is trying to work out inequities such as the width of sidewalks in urban areas as opposed to residential neighborhoods.

Galambos also told the group that Community Development is trying to work with the merchants and the owner of CityWalk to improve the shopping environment and reduce the turnover in retail stores. “The problem is no one can find the owner of the property, and his phone has been disconnected.”

Galambos called it “a horrible situation.”

The mayor said the city’s contract with CH2MHill will be coming up for rebidding, and the city staff is developing output measures to evaluate the performance of the partnership.