By Amy Wenk
The city of Sandy Springs may find permanent homes for its city hall, police headquarters and municipal court within the next year.
City Manager John McDonough at a March 19 retreat asked Sandy Springs City Council to consider funding future facilities in the 2011 budget that starts July 1. Budget planning begins in April.
“We are in the need of property,” Dist. 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said in a later interview. “This might be a good time for us to look at some options. We just want to plan for the future.”
But funds might be tight in 2011.
“Revenues have declined in almost every category,” said new Director of Finance Amy Davis at the retreat.
Revenue is estimated to be about $78 million in 2011, Davis said, $5.5 million less than anticipated revenues for the current 2010 budget. Property tax revenue is expected to be 8 to 10 percent lower in 2011 than 2010, Davis said.
Expenditures are anticipated to increase at least $1.25 million due to factors like a 33 percent increase in gasoline prices and a 12 to 15 percent increase in the cost of benefits like health insurance.
McDonough said cuts to the general services contract and capital projects budget might be necessary. But he said the city’s top priority, public safety, would not see reductions.
Sandy Springs has no long-term debt and about $20.5 million in reserves, enough to run the city for three months.
The 2010 budget saw 14.4 million in surplus funds from fiscal 2008. The money was split between the reserve fund and the capital projects budget, which allocated $23.7 million in 2010 for projects like sidewalk construction and the Morgan Falls Overlook Park. More than $3.5 million was stashed away for future facilities.
McDonough ballparked $13 to $15 million would be available for capital projects in 2011. Some of the money can be directed for facilities.
“In December we will be five years old,” McDonough said. “We have been in leased space. The leased space has served us well. We do spend a significant amount to be in those leased facilities.”
The five-year lease for the current City Hall ends in September 2011, and the lease for the police headquarters on Barfield Road also is coming up for renewal. The city pays each year about $1.1 million for City Hall and $504,000 for the Police Department leases.
City officials estimate for the next 20 years it needs 6,500 square feet of space for a court house, 35,000 square feet for a police department and 61,500 square feet for a city hall building. McDonough estimates the facilities will cost $40 to $55 million, including $7.5 million to buy land.
“Prices are good right now, and if we need to acquire any land this would be the time to do it,” Fries said.
The city already owns property for a City Hall. In 2008, the city paid $8 million in cash for a former Target store at the corner of Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road.
Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins at the retreat said the city should buy the parcel next to the Target site, which now houses the Goodwill donation center and thrift store.