Officials — three city council members, Mayor Mike Davis, the city manager and finance director — talked logistics regarding the new year’s finances during a budget committee session Sept. 28.
Expanding the Dunwoody police department and its capabilities — at a price tag of $750,000 — was among the spending issues to generate a fair amount of debate.
Councilman Denis Shortal expressed disapproval at proposed plans, including adding a handful of officers and a sergeant assigned to a crime response/traffic unit and a civilian prisoner transport officer to the mix.
“Do I think we need one or two more [police officers]? Yeah,” said Shortal. “But, numbers in themselves is not a good gauge of success. It’s quality.”
Shortal cautioned that tampering with the city’s current ratio of one officer per every 755 citizens and at the aforementioned cost is a slippery slope.
“Being [fiscally] conservative now will prevent a catastrophe down the road,” he said. “If we don’t, those who come behind us will have to pick up the pieces like everyone else around us — Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett.”
Councilman Terry Nall countered that funds allocated to expand police operations — thus potentially avoiding burning out officers working service calls — represents money well spent.
“Being conservative means spending money on the right things … it doesn’t mean not spending it at all,” Nall said. “How many officers are [currently] being taken away from proactive policing? We’ve got to stay ahead on public safety … if we get behind, we’ll never catch up.”
The original budget, presented by Davis and City Manager Warren Hutmacher, calls for maintaining the millage rate at 2.74 mills.
“While rolling back the rate would be popular, a declining tax digest and a need to preserve cash and increasing operating reserves dictates a need to keep the tax rate at 2.74 mills,” Hutmacher said.
Compared to DeKalb County coffers, Dunwoody is relatively flush with cash.
The city’s projected fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2012 is $12 million-plus. That amount includes $6.5 million in unspent Homestead Option Sales Tax dollars.
City council may attempt to adopt the budget Oct. 29. If it fails to do so by Nov. 1, the financial plan submitted by the mayor will automatically be approved.