Friday, October 7, 2011

Update From Councilman Wittenstein

The following update was sent out late last night by Councilman Robert Wittenstein.  I think Robert and council have done a great job being guardians of our tax dollars, although, I'm still not onboard with the parks' bonds that Robert favors.  The size of the bonds is too large, and we, the voting public, have little specifics.  Concerning the 2012 budget, this line caught my eye, "Our findings call for an increase in the fee paid by property owners to support the enormous cost of repairs and improvements to our drainage system. Council will vote on a potential fee increase in conjunction with the setting of the millage rate."  I have no idea about the size of a potential increase, but the language does scare me!

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

We have successfully completed the transition to ChatComm's 911 system. The cutover went smoothly thanks to the hard work of a large number of people over many months
The most important item coming before council in October is the 2012 budget. I served on the budget committee and we combed through it in agonizing detail. There were a lot of compromises as we discussed competing priorities and I am proud of the results.

While other local governments are suffering from cutbacks, Dunwoody finds itself in the unique position of having more funds to spend on services this year than last year. This is due to several factors:

  1. We had a very competitive and successful bidding process for city services. The vendors we have contracted with will provide the same level of service-or in some cases higher levels of service-at lower costs over the next three years. This will save us almost a million dollars a year. It once again demonstrates that a public/private model with a competitive bidding process is a powerful tool for city services.
  2. As I mentioned in my last update, the state Department of Revenue released HOST funds which are restricted to capital improvements but will allow us to make some much-needed investments.
  3. Many of our startup expenses have been covered. We have paid off much of our original debt associated with starting the city. Also, 2012 will be the first year where we don't have a major (and expensive) comprehensive planning initiative.
The result is more money available for Roads, Parks and Police-without a tax increase. Funding for police is going up 6%. Most of this will be for a new four-person unit focused on crime prevention. Funding for parks will increase to $2.1 million. The proposed budget calls for us to spend an additional $2.5 million on repaving and a $1 million on new sidewalks.

During the budget process, I pushed for a small property tax rollback. However, I was persuaded that it was more important for the city to build our reserve fund at this stage in our development. The 2012 budget calls for a substantial amount set aside for reserves including $1.5 million to start a police vehicle replacement fund. This will allow us to replace our fleet in coming years without having to borrow from the bank to do so. I'll continue to push for a modest rollback in years to come. (Provided I'm still on the Council!)
There is one item in the budget that causes me concern and that I will oppose. In the context of a $22 million budget it is a small item, but it is the principle. The budget includes $150,000 for "Gateway and Wayfinding Signage." This would involve pillars or arches over the major entrances to Dunwoody and themed signs directing visitors to places of interest. The expectation is that the $150,000 would cover about one third of the expected cost of $450,000, which would be spread over three years. While I would love for us to put up some nice "Welcome to Dunwoody" signs, I am convinced we can do so in a much more modest fashion.
The City Council will discuss the budget at our work session on October 10th and vote on it at our meeting on October 24th. As always, feel free to share your thoughts with me about our budget.
Enjoy these beautiful fall days and don't forget the Dunwoody Music Festival at Brook Run on October 22nd - 23rd.


1 comment:

Chip said...

You must be kidding!! Another 4 police officer positions with cars, etc.? Almost $400,000 annually!!! And not a hint of public discussion or input on whether this is needed! How much larger a police force does our little 12-sq. mile burg need???

Also, Robert, why are you suggesting you raise fees for infrastructure improvement, when you can reallocate current revenues to offset the costs for storm drains. Just like roads, do a little at a time with what you have.

If you weren't so anxious to pass the parks bonds, diverting much needed resources to programs of questionable value, there would be sufficient opportunity to increase the millage rate modestly to fund these types of programs.

Robert, you may have worked long and hard on the budget and I don't doubt that you did. It would have been better if you'd remember the reasons for Dunwoody becoming a city as you were doing the work!!!