By Sandy Springs City Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins
I sent an e-mail out the other day asking, “Does the whole city feel like it is under construction?”
In the body of the e-mail, I listed all of the road projects, sidewalk projects, park projects and stormwater projects that were currently being constructed within the city limits.
As I reviewed the list, I realized that the thing that makes me most proud is that we are able to do all of this infrastructure work with the same tax rate as we had before we became a city. This is in addition to having a fantastic police, fire and 911 system.
I believe that our city’s greatest accomplishments are the benefits derived from our outsourcing model for day-to-day operations and our defined contribution package for public safety employees (essentially, a 401k system). It is these structural differences that set Sandy Springs apart and allow us to have the resources available to improve infrastructure at such a rapid pace.
The outsourcing model for day-to-day operations means that there are no entrenched public employees who exist just to have someone on the payroll. Everyone is a necessary employee performing a value-added job.
When the city needed to staff up temporarily for a flood of zonings in 2005-2006, the private company allowed us to do so temporarily. When we needed to staff down due to the economy and lack of new permits coming through, the private company allowed us to do so with no severance costs or future indebtedness. When the city decides to add enhanced services such as additional mowing, we go out to the market for the best price.
Market competition will always provide a better value for the taxpayer than entrenched public employees. Citizens can see these savings everyday reinvested in their roads, sidewalks and parks.
Our public safety employees have the same retirement plan as any business person does; a 401k system. There is not going to be a crushing burden on future taxpayers for an out-of-control benefit system for public employees.
Sandy Springs operates as a business, not as a traditional government. The mayor and council have been united in this approach since inception, and my hope is that future mayors and councils will continue to see the benefits derived from this approach. The savings that Sandy Springs taxpayers reap from this model will continue to be visible in our roads, parks, sidewalks, stormwater and city center.
Is the whole city under construction? Yes, and my hope is that it will continue to be improved.
Ashley Jenkins was among the members of the first Sandy Springs City Council. She is in her second term and represents District 4.