BRADENTON, Fla. - Atlanta is ramping up community involvement in the annual budget process by having people ask questions through email, texting, social media, and by telephone.
Since Mayor Kasim Reed's proposed $1.9 billion budget for fiscal 2015 was released May 1, Facebook generated more than 11,000 views over a two-day period and tweets are coming in, according to City Council spokesman Dexter Chambers.
People are asking questions about whether funds are available to leverage federal transportation dollars to expand the Atlanta Streetcar, which isn't operating yet, Chambers said. The first phase in downtown is scheduled to begin operating in the second quarter of this year.
People are also asking about funding public safety and how much money is in the city budget to fight blight and conduct housing code enforcement, he said.
The questions will be answered during a combined public hearing and live virtual town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, which will be streamed on the city's website at www.atlanta.ga.gov.
The $1.9 billion budget proposal is $13.5 million or 0.71% more than the current spending plan. The general fund portion totals $565.54 million, which is $20.76 million or 3.67% higher than fiscal 2014.
Much of the revenue boosting the general fund will come from reassessments in property taxes - though no tax increase is proposed - and reallocating $5 million in tax increment from the retirement of bonds sold for the Eastside Tax Allocation District.
Revenues are also going up due to new initiatives - such as increased enforcement - with various court fees, fines, and forfeitures, among others.
Reed's 2015 budget also appropriates $2.8 million of fund balance compared to $11 million in fiscal 2014. He said it also builds on his commitment to maintain fiscal stability by increasing reserves to $127 million.
In his budget letter to the council, Reed reminded them that he has appointed a panel to assist in identifying budget savings through efficiencies in city operations.
"This commission will play a key role in preparing the city for future bond offerings to address our infrastructure needs," he said. Those needs include expanding parks and improving roads, bridges, and sidewalks.
Atlanta has a $900 million infrastructure backlog, and Reed expects to issue $150 million to $250 million of bonds to fund some capital needs without a tax increase. He has said voters will be asked to authorize the debt in a referendum, possibly in 2015.
The City Council now begins its review, and plans to adopt a final budget on June 16. The new fiscal year begins July 1.