ROSWELL, Ga. — If a May 26 Roswell City Council vote holds up, there will be no changes to the fiscal year 2021 budget, which has already slashed approximately $8 million in funding from last year.
The city is bracing for the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to several cuts in an already conservative budget plan. It has also set aside a reserve of about $1.6 million for financial uncertainty arising from the current economic downturn.
Several proposed additions and deletions to the budget, however, did not hold up during the a first reading on May 26. By a 3-2 vote, the proposed budget passed on first reading, with council members Christine Hall and Marcelo Zapata opposed. It calls for $144 million in spending, down from last year’s approved $152 million budget. Councilman Mike Palermo was not in attendance for the vote.
“This budget is a delicate balance,” said Councilman Matthew Tyser. “It’s fragile, and we’re still unaware of the effect that COVID-19 will have, as we’ve only seen a full month of sales tax receipts. It’s with that, and in anticipation of our quarterly reviews, that I cannot support any changes to this budget at this time.”
To weather the pandemic’s effects, the city has shifted the budget’s focus to maintaining current levels of services and programs. The budget team does not recommend increasing any employee compensation and anticipates a hiring freeze except for critical positions. The city currently employs 625 full-time positions.
The budget team also suggested reappropriating any unspent capital project, grant, Employee Wellness Program and other budget funding from FY 2020.
Despite an expected slight decline in property tax revenue because of COVID-19, the city’s millage rate is expected to stay at 4.955 mills, the same since fiscal year 2019. One mill brings in $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value on a property.
Some of the general fund’s proposed expenditures include $1.8 million for the Historic Gateway Project, $1.4 million for fire vehicle replacement, $1.2 million for citywide network/fiber switch replacement, $250,000 for road resurfacing, $116,000 for police taser replacement and $10,000 for polygraph services.
Budget Manager Harpreet Hora said her team will be monitoring the situation each month to see if there are any changes or any requests could potentially gain funding in the future.
The amount reserved for road resurfacing in particular came into question at the May 26 meeting. It became one of the handful of changes proposed by council members Hall, Palermo and Zapata, who sought to add an additional $250,000 in funding to the project. Other changes proposed by the three include $140,000 for a new economic development position and a reduction in $275,000 for the city’s travel, education and car funds.
The proposed changes were not met favorably by several council members who said they were hesitant to pass them when COVID-19 has made the city’s financial situation so uncertain.
There may be changes to the budget following its second and final reading, which is schedule for the June 8 City Council meeting at 7 p.m.
Roswell has released an interactive digital book for citizens to review information about the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget. It can be viewed, along with other budget materials, at roswellgov.com/budget.