Sandy Springs City Manager Andrea Surratt proposed a $108 million budget that includes funding the new fire station No. 5 in the panhandle, design and engineering for the proposed Veterans Park, and pay hikes for some city employees.

Surratt discussed the funding during the City Council’s first 2022 budget workshop on April 20, which covered the city’s budget philosophy and its capital improvement program. The fiscal year runs from July through June of the following year.

The new Sandy Springs city logo.

The fiscal year 2022 budget is estimated at $108 million for the general fund, with an estimated $46 million in fund balance. An additional $10 million is anticipated by the end of fiscal year 2021 on June 30 to give the city roughly $56 million in fund balance.

Surratt said the city will receive $16 million over two years from a new funding source, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The largest capital expenditure proposed for fiscal year 2022 was the $5 million for Fire Station No. 5, planned for the northern panhandle at 7800 Mount Vernon Road. The city bought that property in February for $450,000. Bond funds were designated for this project.

The city approved refinancing its City Springs bonds in the Series 2020 Refunding Revenue Bonds to fund its purchase of a future public safety headquarters at 620 Morgan Falls Road, as well as its renovation and to construct fire stations.

Surratt proposed a one-time capital expense of $800,000 to bring city employees’ salaries in line with area market rates, with almost three-fourths of that going to public safety salaries.

This capital expense is the result of the city’s pay and compensation study directed by City Council. In that study, job titles were defined, job descriptions written and a pay matrix was created. A step program was set up for public safety for people who join the city. The new employees will be placed into the step program based on their experience and proceed through the pay plan as the years go by, she said. 

“It in particular brings the market rate of public safety employees up to a standard that allows us to recruit and retain employees significantly,” Surratt said.

The expense for any increase in salaries from this one-time expense will be seen paid through the city’s General Fund in future years.

City staff believes a design for a new Veterans Park can be completed in this fiscal year, which will keep it on track. The construction of the park between Mount Vernon Highway and Johnson Ferry Road across Roswell Road from City Springs is projected to start in 2023. The $4.6 million cost for the park and art within it is projected in fiscal year 2023.

For the fiscal year 2021 budget, department heads were instructed to cut expenses by 20% in response to the pandemic reducing revenue. The police and fire departments were excluded from those cuts. No such direction was given for fiscal year 2022

“As we prepared the capital program for this year, the departments were not given such a hard and fast cut [of] 20% or any kind of ultimatums,” Surratt said.

The $22 million capital improvement program in the fiscal year 2022 budget will have almost $12 million brought over from the general fund, she said. Approximately $10 million comes from other funding sources, such as impact fees and bonds.

The city’s pavement management program was proposed for $4.8 million, with part of that funding coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation Local Maintenance & Improvement (LMIG) grant program.

A trail segment at Morgan Falls, part of the city’s master trail plan, was designated for $2.5 million in capital funds.

The city will hold a budget workshop on May 4 on operations and the general fund. At a budget workshop on May 18, the City Council will receive the proposed budget. Two public hearings will be held on the budget, on June 1 and June 15.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.