Dunwoody’s budget committee met Sept. 28 to hash out the details of the city’s financial plan for fiscal year 2013, which begins Jan. 1.
The group went through some of the major points of the budget, discussing any changes from the previous year or items that should be discussed by the full City Council Oct. 15.
The committee includes three city council members – John Heneghan, Terry Nall and Denis Shortal – as well as Mayor Mike Davis, City Manager Warren Hutmacher and Finance Director Chris Pike.
The committee agreed that the city’s tax rate would stay at the same level it has since 2008: 2.74 mills.
Hutmacher said Dunwoody received about $2.6 million more in sales tax funds from DeKalb County in 2012 than anticipated.
“We doubled what we thought we would get,” Hutmacher said.
Hutmacher suggested appropriating $1.8 million of that amount to spend on capital projects throughout the city in 2013, such as a video surveillance system for Brook Run Park and parks construction for the city’s redevelopment plan known as Project Renaissance.
The city also plans to create a grant program for its partner organizations that offer parks and recreation services.
The groups- such as the Dunwoody Nature Center and Spruill Center for the Arts – can apply for a share of $250,000 the city will set aside for improvements to their facilities.
Deputy Police Chief David Sides told the committee the Drug Enforcement Agency has asked for a Dunwoody detective to be assigned to its task force on prescription medications.
“The Southeast is rather significant for pill mills and medication fraud,” Sides said.
The police department is also hoping to add a staff member to transport prisoners and a four-person crime response unit.
Shortal said he thinks the police department’s requests go against the city’s model of lean government.
“I definitely question the need for an additional four officers,” Shortal said. “Every year we can’t be adding. We can’t build this big monumental police department.”
But Nall said he thinks the city needs additional officers to do more proactive policing, rather than just keeping up with emergency calls.
“We’re going to burn out our officers with too many calls, but more importantly we have to stay ahead of it from a public safety standpoint,” Nall said.
The committee also discussed giving employees a 4 percent raise, which some thought was too high.
Hutmacher said the raise is not much higher than the standard Social Security cost of living adjustment and would serve as a merit raise.
He said a raise would also serve as incentive for employees to stay with Dunwoody, when the new city of Brookhaven will be looking for staff soon.
“If there was a year to go up, this would be it to try to keep personnel from going to Brookhaven,” Hutmacher said.
With less than 10 years left on the lease for Dunwoody’s current administrative space at 41 Perimeter Center East, Hutmacher said it’s time to start thinking about building a permanent City Hall.
The budget committee discussed spending $50,000 evaluate sites the city already owns as possible locations for City Hall, as well as putting aside $100,000 toward eventual construction costs.