The process of finalizing the Atlanta budget starts this week, and there’s a lot happening that you should know about. Mayor Andre Dickens’ proposed city budget for fiscal year 2024 would be the largest in Atlanta’s history if approved.
Should the city give raises to its employees? How much money should the city commit to affordable housing programs to combat rising rent prices? And how much should the city spend to fix potholes around town? These are just some of the questions that will be answered before the budget is due to be finalized by June 30.
Atlanta’s service department leaders will devote that time to telling the City Council how they’d like to spend your tax dollars. Residents who want a say in these matters will have opportunities to make their voices heard.
If you’re not sure when and how to attend budget hearings, we’ve got your back.
Members of the public can’t speak during budget hearings, but they can watch them in person or online and contact City Council members via email or phone to voice their concerns.
Residents can also address Atlanta lawmakers during the public comment portion of full City Council meetings, which typically take place at 1 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month inside City Hall.
That’s not all. Concerned citizens also can comment on budget-related issues during City Council subcommittee hearings between now and mid-June.
Below is a timeline of key budget hearings set to take place over the next 45 days. Dates and times may be subject to change.
City employee unions and Human Resources
When is it: Wednesday, May 3, from 1 to 4 p.m.
What’s happening: Leaders from several unions that represent city employees will discuss their financial priorities and probably ask for raises.
Why it matters: Some Atlanta government service divisions, including the departments of Transportation and Public Works, have had a difficult time filling job vacancies. Labor leaders suggest low wages that aren’t keeping up with inflation is playing a role.
Tracey Thornhill serves as president of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) chapter, which represents employees from the city of Atlanta, Fulton County, and Atlanta Public Schools. AFSCME is scheduled to address council members from 1 to 1:45 p.m.
Thornhill recently called on the City Council to approve raises for city employees, saying those who work in departments, such as Public Works and Sanitation, haven’t received the same pay increases as police and firefighters over the past four years. Some, he said, have been forced to move out of Atlanta due to its rising cost of living.
“I want the city employees to make enough money to live in the city in which they work,” Thornhill told the City Council during its April 17 meeting. “We have to move on the outskirts of the city because we can no longer afford to live in the city of Atlanta.”
Other related meetings: The Department of Human Resources is scheduled to address its proposed budget from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17.
Public Safety and Corrections
When is it: Thursday, May 4, from 10 to 11 a.m.
What’s happening: Atlanta Police Department leaders will present.
Why it matters: Police administrators are expected to make their case for added funding to support staffing and capital needs for APD’s Crime Lab, Crime Information Center, and a 911 system commissioner.
City Council members say they also want to increase funding for the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Center so it can provide 24-hour service to address mental health crises.
Atlanta lawmakers also expect the police department to ask for their greenlight on funding to continue building the city’s controversial public safety training center, aka “Cop City.”
Other related meetings:
- Atlanta’s Fire and Rescue Department is scheduled to speak from 11 a.m. to noon.
- The Department of Corrections will address council members from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
- Leaders from the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, which provides oversight for police and corrections officers, will plead their municipal funding case from 2:30 to 3 p.m.
- The city Law Department’s budget hearing will take place from 3 to 4 p.m.
Department of Watershed Management
When is it: Wednesday, May 17, from 1 to 2 p.m.
What’s happening: Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management will present.
Why it matters: Watershed Management has come under fire recently for cutting off services to Atlanta residents who are behind on their bills.
Department of Labor
When is it: Wednesday, May 17, from 3 to 4 p.m.
What’s happening: The city’s newly formed Department of Labor is scheduled to make its proposed budget request.
Why it matters: Atlanta has never had its own Department of Labor. City leaders say it’s necessary to help lower-income, legacy residents get the training and resources they need to secure higher-paying jobs.
Atlanta’s DOL is scheduled to open for business in July. Mayor Andre Dickens’ office says the department will manage the city’s labor and innovation work, including his Summer Youth Employment Program and Youth Leadership Institute.
Department of Transportation
When is it: Thursday, May 18, from 3 to 4 p.m.
What’s happening?: Atlanta’s Department of Transportation, which manages road repairs, is scheduled to discuss its proposed budget.
Why it matters: Atlanta is notorious for its pothole problems. Council members want to increase funding for pothole and sidewalk repairs and to resurface some of the city’s worst streets. They’re also looking to appropriate more funds for crosswalks, sidewalks, traffic beacons, speed tables, and signage to minimize the number of fatal pedestrian auto accidents in the city.
Council members will host at least two public comment hearings regarding the city’s property tax rate on June 6 and June 14.
Parks and Recreation
When is it: Tuesday, June 6, from 2 to 3 p.m.
What’s happening: Leaders from the Department of Parks and Recreation will present their proposed budget.
Why it matters: Some Atlanta residents have complained about needed repairs in city parks. City Council members are looking to create more green spaces and increase spending on park maintenance and capital investments.
Council members want to fund a citywide trails master plan and continue investing in greenway projects. They also plan to add to the Office of Recreation’s budget so it can expand programming for Atlanta’s senior citizens.
When is it: Tuesday, June 6, from 6 to 7 p.m.
What’s happening: A public hearing addressing the city’s tax millage.
Why it matters: The rising cost of living in Atlanta is causing added financial problems for Black folks. Gentrification has led to rising property taxes for retired senior citizen homeowners living on fixed incomes. Many have struggled to pay their added tax burden, which is why some City Council members are against raising the city’s millage rate.
This is one of at least three related meetings in which members of the public will be allowed to speak, according to the City Council. Citizens can also address millage rate concerns from noon to 12:30 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14.
Capital B is publishing this story as part of ATL Budget, a civic engagement project done in partnership with Atlanta Civic Circle, Canopy Atlanta, and the Center for Civic Innovation, to help you understand where your tax dollars will go — and how you can have a say about it. To keep up, follow #ATLBudget on Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for our newsletter here.