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City Politics

City Council Approves Largest Budget in Atlanta History

Next, the $790 million general fund heads to Mayor Andre Dickens’ desk for him to sign on or before June 30.

The Atlanta City Council on Tuesday approved an estimated $790 million general fund budget. (Justin Darden/Capital B)

The largest proposed budget in Atlanta history received a stamp of approval from the Atlanta City Council. Members voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon in favor of the estimated $790 million general fund budget, which Mayor Andre Dickens is due to sign into law by June 30.

Dickens joined the meeting and thanked the council for approving the budget after their vote.

“This demonstrates how well we work together, how well we are preparing our city for the future, and how committed we are to making sure we do these things together,” he said.

Here are the biggest takeaways.

Workforce development

Workforce development and city employee pay raises were a major focus of this year’s proposed budget.

City employees are set to receive a 2.5% cost-of-living adjustment. Low wages have been a major problem for municipal workers due to rapidly rising rent prices in Atlanta, which has experienced one of the highest rates of overall inflation in the nation this year.

City union leaders, including local Professional Association of City Employees President Gina Pagnotta, previously have complained about employees who can no longer afford to live in the city where they work.

Pagnotta and local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Tracey Thornhill attended Tuesday’s meeting and expressed gratitude to city council and the mayor for being more accessible than past administrations.

“Although I may not get everything I want, I always get something I want,” Thornhill said regarding his dealings with the Dickens administration. “It may not be going as fast as I want it to go, but it’s going in the right direction.”

Youth engagement

The proposed budget would allocate $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for summer youth employment, $1.8 million in operations for Atlanta’s At-Promise Youth Centers, and $2 million for Parks and Recreation youth programming.

District 10 council member Andrea Boone said thousands of young people have already secured employment this summer through the mayor’s youth engagement initiative.

“Thank you for making this the ‘Year of the Youth,’” she told the mayor at Tuesday’s meeting.

Public safety

The budget would add more than $10.4 million to the police department’s operating budget, including an estimated $6.2 million for officers’ salaries.

One of City Council’s goals for the latest budget has been funding for staffing and capital needs for the police department’s Crime Lab and Crime Information Center.

That’s in addition to adding a commissioner for the city’s 911 system. While providing resources for the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative (PAD) to offer 24-hour services was a priority for City Council, it was not in the final budget, according to Clara Totenberg Green, the organization’s community engagement manager.

Doubling parks improvement fund

The Atlanta lawmakers also adopted an ordinance that would double the city’s parks improvement fund. The fund currently generates about $16 million for park maintenance, according to District 9 council member Dustin Hillis. The council’s measure would increase that funding to about $32 million.

City Council President Doug Shipman says the measure includes added money for maintenance of smaller parks on the city’s predominantly Black south side.

Council thanks Dickens

Council members seemed pleased with how the budget addresses some of the city’s biggest problems, specifically higher pay for city employees and youth engagement.

District 12 council member Antonio Lewis thanked Dickens for his work on the budget.

“I know you’ve got a tough job,” he said. “I think you’re doing a hell of a job at that tough job.”

This story has been updated.