By Amy Wenk

Although Sandy Springs’ proposed 2011 general-fund budget is 7 percent less than the current budget, revenues are still expected to fall $5 million short, requiring the use of reserves.

The city of Sandy Springs plans to use $5 million from its savings to balance next year’s $83 million budget.

City Manager John McDonough at a May 25 meeting presented the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. There is no tax increase proposed.

Residents can comment on the budget June 15 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500. Sandy Springs City Council looks to approve the budget that same night.

According to information from the city, the proposed 2011 budget for all operating and special revenue funds, which includes federal grants and hotel/motel fees, is $160.7 million. The city’s general fund, which pays for city operations, is proposed at $83 million for next year, down more than 7 percent from last year’s budget of almost $90 million.

McDonough said the city expects to collect about $9 million less in revenue next budget year.

He said a major cause of that dip is an estimated $4 million decline in property taxes collected from residents.

“It’s a moving target,” McDonough said, referring to his projection that revenue from property taxes will decrease about 12 percent. Although Fulton County has yet to set the tax digest, which is the tax value of properties in the county, McDonough said talks with the tax assessor reveal that about 90 percent of tax valuations show reductions. Property taxes account for about 35 percent of the city’s revenue.

Money collected from sales tax also is down from last year. That revenue source gives the city around 25 percent of its operating dollars. McDonough said he expects about a 5 percent reduction, or about $1 million less.

About 10 percent of the city’s revenue comes from business and occupational tax, which is expected to decline about $2 million next year. Early this year, City Council cut permit fees in half to encourage development.

City officials still will pay for many projects and improvements next year.

Public safety will be offered several enhancements through a $28 million budget. That includes updating radio infrastructure used to dispatch police officers and firefighters in emergency situations.

Other public safety improvements include replacing 34 police vehicles, launching community programs that allow citizens to patrol and kids to explore policing, and inspecting 3,000 of the city’s fire hydrants.

The 2011 budget allocates $24.85 million for the government services contract with CH2M Hill, the contractor that provides the city personnel in such departments as public works and community development. That contract costs about 6 percent less than last year’s contract of $26.4 million.

About 20 percent of the budget, or $16.7 million, will go for capital projects.

“It’s almost unheard of,” McDonough said. He said most cities allocate between 3 and 5 percent of their budget to capital projects.

The money will pay for a variety of projects. There is $2.5 million to pave roads, $1.8 million to repair stormwater infrastructure, $1.85 million to construct sidewalks, $1.5 million to improve Morgan Falls Road, $1.5 million to renovate Heritage Sandy Springs’ Bluestone building and $500,000 to lease a second gymnastics facility in the city.

City officials are also dedicating $3.5 million in next year’s budget to pay for land for future facilities such as a City Hall and police headquarters. The city already has $4 million stowed away for that endeavor.