This explainer was researched and written by Micah Herskind. Micah is working with the Center for Civic Innovation this summer to take a detailed look at the City of Atlanta’s FY2024 budget.
On June 20, 2023 the Atlanta City Council approved the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. The General Fund budget is the largest in the city’s history, totaling $790.1 million — an increase of nearly $36 million from last year’s budget.
How does the budget work?
The 2024 budget totals $2.5 billion, but approximately two-thirds of the total budget is dedicated to costs such as the airport, water and sewers, and paying interest on the city’s debt.
The remaining third is referred to as the General Fund, and is where the Mayor and City Council have the most discretion to choose how to spend the City’s money. Money from the General Fund goes to costs such as police, firefighters, transportation, city administration, parks, and other departments.
Each year, the Mayor provides a proposed budget to the City Council, which can make amendments to and approves the budget. The City Council and Mayor are required to approve the budget by June 30th each year, and the new budget takes effect on July 1st.
Where does the money come from?
Property taxes are the largest source of revenue for the City’s General Fund.
Where does the money go?
The Atlanta Police Department is the largest expenditure from the City’s General Fund budget.
1. Projected revenue increases make for largest budget in city’s history.
This year’s budget increase is primarily due to projected revenue increases from Property Taxes ($26.8 million), Building Rentals and Concessions ($8.9 million), Utility Fees and Alcohol taxes ($6.5 million), and Sales taxes ($2.4 million).
Apart from the General Fund, the Atlanta City Council also approved legislation (Ordinance 23-O-1258) in June 2023 to double the City’s Parks Improvement Fund, from approximately $16 million to $32 million, through an increase in the property tax rate.
2. The budget provides 2.5% Cost of Living increases across city departments.
The FY2024 budget includes a 2.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for City worker salaries across departments, an increase from the previous year’s 2% COLA.
3. The Atlanta Police Department gets largest share of budget increase while Policing Alternatives and Diversion is left out of budget.
While nearly every department’s budget increased, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) received the largest budget increase, totaling $12.6 million and representing approximately 35% of the citywide budget increase. Over $7.8 million of the new funding will go to police salaries, with $3.4 million allocated for contracts including body cameras, data storage, and identification technology, and $750,000 for additional security cameras in city parks and other areas highlighted by APD.
In 2023, Policing Alternatives and Diversion (PAD) Initiative was allotted $4.5 million through federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to continue providing diversion and community response services. For the coming year, however, PAD has not been allocated any additional funding through the regular budget process, but instead will use remaining ARPA funding.
4. Department of Transportation budget decreased by nearly $7 million.
The Department of Transportation’s budget was decreased by nearly $7 million for a total of $50.7 million, representing an 11.8% decrease and a loss of multiple staff positions. Critics say the decrease represents a move in the wrong direction given the backlog of city transportation projects, while some City officials have cited difficulties in filling staff positions and the use of state and federal funds outside of the General Fund to support transportation expenses.
5. City creates Department of Labor and Employment Services and restructures Ethics Office.
Beginning July 1st, the newly-created Department of Labor and Employment Services will begin operations, housing the WorkSource Atlanta program that focuses on workforce development, coordinating with public and private labor unions, and overseeing labor practices and workplace complaints. The department was allocated $500,000 in the budget, and will primarily function using federal funding.
The City also approved legislation in April 2023 to separate the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) from the Department of Ethics, over concerns of independence of either entity and the possibility of conflicts in the case of either agency investigating the other. The newly independent OIG has a budget of $1.5 million, taken mainly from the Department of Ethics budget.
6. Department of Corrections budget grows following lease of City jail to Fulton County.
In August 2022, the City Council and Mayor approved a lease of up to 700 beds at the Atlanta City Detention Center to Fulton County despite resistance from advocates. After several years of decreasing the corrections budget following reforms to the city’s cash bail system and a commitment from the City to repurpose its jail, the Department of Corrections budget has now grown for the third year in a row. This year’s budget increase of $1.8 million is due primarily to increases related to funding to support the lease agreement.
7. City underfunds Affordable Housing Trust Fund for second consecutive year.
The adopted budget allocates $8 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, nearly $4 million less than called for by the 2021 legislation that created the trust fund. This marks the second year in a row of controversy related to the fund. In his proposed FY2023 budget, Mayor Dickens originally did not include any funding for the trust fund, before reversing course and allocating $7 million in response to pressure from advocates. Advocates have also questioned the recent allocation of $800,000 from the fund toward code enforcement, arguing such expenditures go against the intent of the trust to provide affordable housing.
Update: On July 5, the Atlanta City Council adopted Ordinance 23-O-1331 which will allocate an additional $3.5 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund if the City is not anticipating running a deficit by December 31, 2023.
8. Expect additional changes to the budget.
The budget can be amended at any City Council meeting, and some adjustments have already been proposed.
For example, on the same day the City Council approved the 2024 budget:
- Councilmember Jason Dozier introduced legislation to allocate an additional $3.5 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to meet the requirements of the original trust fund legislation. (See update above.)
- Councilmember Michael Julian Bond introduced legislation to give retention incentives to E-911 employees, and
- Councilmember Jason Winston introduced legislation to give retention incentives to other City employees earning less than $71k/year.
This explainer is part of a series from the Center for Civic Innovation breaking down the City of Atlanta’s FY 2024 Budget.