The city is proposing a $106 million operating budget for fiscal year 2018, an increase of about a half-percent over the current year, officials said at a May 23 City Council meeting.

The budget will take effect July 1. The council will hold public hearings on the budget on June 6 and June 20.

The budget projects revenues of about $92 million, with money from a reserve fund balancing the expenditures. The revenue projection is about 1 percent higher than fiscal 2017. While most revenue sources are projected to increase, property taxes are expected to show a 2.2 percent decline.

The police department would get a budget boost of more than 9 percent to about $22.8 million. Part of that is a salary increase to remain competitive as a State Patrol pay boost is attracting officers away from the department, city officials said. The boost also includes hiring more officers, mostly to staff a mini-station in the City Springs project set to open next year. The hiring includes one sergeant and eight full-time officers, as well as two part-time positions.

The Recreation and Parks Department would get a big budget increase, of about 30.5 percent, to $4.7 million. Part of that will cover a revised parks master plan process that will be conducted this fall.

Besides the general fund for operations, the city has its capital budget and many other funds, including revenue coming soon from the new transportation special local option sales tax. The total funds the city controls amount to about $427 million.

Those funds include a budget for the performing arts center in City Springs, which is set to open about a year from now. The city expects to spend about $1.3 million on the center over the next year, with about $900,000 of that on staffing.

The city’s hallmark is outsourcing its main functions to private companies. The total cost of those contracts is projected to rise by 6.45 percent to about $17.4 million, due to automatic increases dictated in the contracts as well as some new hiring.

The city recently rebid and reworked a specialized subsection of those outsourcing contracts, which cover “field services,” or the maintenance of streets, storm sewers and public spaces.

The idea, said Assistant City Manager Bryant Poole, was basically to ask for more work – in most cases including additional employees – for less money. The city also decided to start buying its own construction materials for such work, which it expects will save money by avoiding sales taxes and getting discounted government rates.

A couple of the contracts are significantly more costly, while others are significantly less expensive. But overall, the city’s expenses for such services, including some that were not rebid, is projected to decrease by 9.75 percent to about $5.3 million. And the city expects to have more regular and emergency staffing for key public works functions.

Mayor Rusty Paul said that, while outsourced city government is still a “controversial” idea, the field services contracts show it can “creatively and innovatively” find ways to do more for less money. “I just can’t believe why this model remains controversial after 12 years, when the benefits are evident,” he said.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.