The Dunwoody City Council unanimously passed a 2023 budget at its Oct. 24 meeting that holds the line on spending and services.
The $30.1 million budget, which will use $2 million of the city’s reserve funds to balance it, reflect revenue that will be generated from last year’s millage rate increase from 2.74 to 3.04. However, city officials said that inflation, salary increases, and higher employee insurance rates will eat up that increased revenue of approximately $1 million.
Dunwoody Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki told the council during his presentation that the city’s financial picture is still healthy, despite having to use reserve funds. “Is it where we want to be? No, but we are still well within the guidelines for a reserve fund,” Vinicki said.
Councilman John Heneghan likened the 2023 budget picture to “an ugly baby.”
“The baby picture is ugly, and the toddler picture doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better,” Heneghan said. “This structural deficit has me concerned.”
Heneghan said he met with key members of the budgeting team, including Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch, before the council session “trying to find $2 million” so the reserve wouldn’t have to be touched, but conceded that the meeting did not produce any viable alternatives.
“I’m just concerned that we are funding things that the public doesn’t want and not funding things that they do want,” he said. “I’m particularly concerned that we have sidewalk projects in this budget when we have heard from citizens that they want to slow down on them.”
Vinicki reminded the council that the budget can, and will, be modified throughout the year to reflect changes in revenues and expenditures.
“This is something that will be modified 20 or more times throughout the course of the year,” he said. “Also, nothing can be spent until January of 2023.”
The budget includes a four-percent market adjustment to be paid to public safety and other staff in the first pay period of 2023, and $2.75 million in road resurfacing funds that will be matched with $450,000 in state funds. The proposed budget also includes $515,000 to cover rising healthcare premiums, which are about 20 percent higher than 2021.
In addition, $600,000 has been designated to launch a pilot ambulance program that will assist in helping reduce response time within the city limits. Council Member Tom Lambert, the chairman of the panel’s budget committee, said the pilot program, which would span three years, will be evaluated on an annual basis to measure its effectiveness.
As it has been in previous years, most of the budget, this year about $11 million, is designated to fund the city’s police department. The parks department portion totals about 12 percent, or about $3.1 million, of the budget. Public works’ expenditures will total about $3 million or 10 percent of the 2023 budget.