By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

With the buffer of $14 million in recently discovered surplus funds from fiscal 2008, Sandy Springs plans to spend one-fourth of its 2010 budget on transportation, recreation and future city facilities.

City Manager John McDonough presented the proposed budget May 26. It includes no fee or tax increases.

Operating revenues for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, are projected to drop $8 million from the current budget of $91 million.

The $82.5 million budget allots $24.1 million, or 29 percent, for capital improvements. That is “unheard of in municipalities,” McDonough said. “Most are fortunate if they can allocate 3 to 5 percent.

“We all know that there is hundreds of millions of dollars of deficiencies out there, and slowly, methodically, we are beginning address a lot of these issues.”

Transportation improvements account for $12.3 million, including almost $5.5 million for repaving roads and $3 million for sidewalks ($3.7 million in federal grants also will be available for sidewalks in 2010).

Almost $5.9 million is recommended for facilities. Around 60 percent ($3.6 million) would be stashed in the long-term facility program for future facilities; 30 percent ($1.8 million) would go to Heritage Sandy Springs for the renovation of its Bluestone building, an issue council members differed about.

Parks are slated to receive $5.5 million. The Morgan Falls athletic fields and Overlook Park each would receive $1.8 million to complete the projects, in addition to leftover funds from 2009. Morgan Falls River Park was allocated $250,000 to begin the design of the facility.

“The truth is $24 million only scratches the surface of the neglect” over 35 years, Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul said.

Other budget highlights include enhanced public safety services like the hiring of a civilian crime analyst manager. The city also will hire a parks supervisor.

The CH2M Hill contract is reduced $1.1 million to $26.1 million for 2010, the first decrease in the city’s four-year history.

“Part of our success is due to this private-public partnership,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “Other cities are having to lay off.”

The public is invited to comment on the proposed budget, available at www.sandysprings.org. Hearings will be held at City Hall at 6 p.m. June 2 and 9. The City Council expects to adopt the budget June 16.

Public discussion on the millage rate may be postponed. The city is waiting on the Fulton County tax assessor to set the property tax digest. If it’s not ready in early June, a special meeting will be held June 30 or in July.