Friday, September 18, 2009
City of Dunwoody proposes 15.5 Million dollar budget for 2010
As required by the City Charter, I hereby submit for your consideration the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 budget for the City of Dunwoody.
The City of Dunwoody was incorporated on December 1, 2008. Dunwoody began providing a full array of municipal services in January, 2009. Since that time all of the necessary personnel, contracts and equipment are in place to provide “best in class” services to our 40,000 residents and over 2,000 businesses. The start up of the Police Department was the fastest deployment in the United States.
The FY 2010 (January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010) budget is an investment in the future of Dunwoody and reflects the priorities of Council and the citizens of our community. This budget has been planned taking into account both local and national economic conditions. The metro Atlanta area witnessed a rapid and traumatic economic crisis over the past 18 months. While Dunwoody has not been hit quite as hard as other communities, the damage realized to job creation, the real estate market and the financial sector impacted our ability to raise revenue. I project that the City will exceed our conservative revenue estimates for FY 2009 and predict a modest growth in revenue for FY 2010. Most economists are cautiously optimistic that we have nearly reached the bottom of this economic recession and that our local economy will not experience significant continued economic decline in 2010. With this less than rosy economic forecast, I estimated our revenues conservatively and planned for our expenses to be in line with the economic realities currently facing Dunwoody.
The FY 2009 adopted revenue budget for the City of Dunwoody was $14,975,978 and the expense budget was projected to be $14,073,899. We now project to end the year with a surplus that will exceed $3,634,085. The City did not budget in FY 2009 for our fair share of the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST). These funds can only be used for capital projects. The revenue generated from this program ($2,382,000) contributed greatly to the large surplus. However, through prudent spending and good revenue planning, the City is projected to generate $1,252,085 in surplus for FY 2009 not counting the HOST funds. The FY 2010 budget includes a budget surplus of $1,312,759 in the General Fund and $120,000 in the Stormwater Fund. These surpluses will allow the City to build capital reserves essential to any well-run organization.
It is appropriate at this time to summarize our first year of operation. The City of Dunwoody commenced the delivery of services on January 1, 2009 through an innovative set of partnerships with three private sector firms who provide the City of Dunwoody with Community Development (Clark Patterson Lee), Public Works (Lowe Engineers) and Finance and Administration (Calvin, Giordano and Associates) services. All of our critical staff was in place by December 1, 2008, and it is clear that each of these firms delivered on their promise of cost efficient and effective service delivery with a specific focus on customer service. Early estimates prior to incorporation projected service delivery costs well above the costs that the City Council ultimately negotiated. This cost savings, in my opinion, is due to this innovative approach of using several vendors to provide services instead of using one company to manage city operations. I think that in time, this model of service delivery will prove to be very successful.
Several key executive positions were filled in FY 2009 by highly competent staff. Outside of the Police Department, the City has only 4 employees. The City hired Finance Director Chris Pike, City Clerk Sharon Lowery, Police Chief Billy Grogan and Court Clerk Tiffaney Pete to provide leadership and management for the City along with the contractors on board to manage Community Development (Jennifer Peterson) and Public Works (Richard Meehan). These department heads bring significant experience and professional qualifications to the City of Dunwoody. Their energy, knowledge and passion for Dunwoody are evident.
The highlight of FY 2009 was the deployment of the Dunwoody Police Department (DPD). Led by Chief Billy Grogan, the DPD officially went into service answering calls on April 1, 2009. In 90 days time, Chief Grogan hired, equipped and prepared 40 sworn officers and 8 civilians to protect and serve the citizens of Dunwoody. The DPD is a “best in class” police department with strong leadership and the finest law enforcement officers in the State of Georgia. The DPD, in 5 months of service, produced a dramatic and much appreciated impact on public safety in Dunwoody.
The FY 2010 budget recommends funding for merit based increases for the employees of the City. The cost of these merit-based increases to the City is $91,085 for the 52 employees of the City. Merit increases will be decided on the basis of employee performance, and these raises will be effective on April 1. It is important for the City to not only reward excellent performance, but to keep salaries high enough to retain our best employees. The recommendation is in line with current market conditions. Even in a down economy, our research shows that local governments are still providing merit increases.
One of the largest challenges the City faced in FY 2009 was the identification, selection and eventual build out of City Hall. The 25,000 square foot requirements included space for administrative staff, a Council Chamber/Court room and a police headquarters. The time frame was short, the inventory varied and the financial resources were limited. With a team of professionals, the City found a temporary home for City Hall in the Perimeter Center area (41 Perimeter Center East), negotiated an economical lease agreement, built out the entire space requirement and moved in the Police Department on March 23rd and the rest of City Hall on May 11th. The space satisfies our short term requirements. The long-term plans for the City of Dunwoody include a permanent home, and our financial strategy includes provisions for accomplishing this goal without incurring debt.
The Municipal Court was organized in FY 2009. There are four Judges appointed by the Mayor and Council. The Court occupied temporary quarters starting in February, 2009 until the Council Chamber/Courtroom was completed at our permanent home in May, 2009. Court meets twice a week and the operation runs smoothly, processing approximately 800 citations per month and coordinating the probation function of the Court.
The City’s comprehensive plan, a state mandated planning effort is underway and is slated for completion at the end of this fiscal year. This process involved hundreds of citizens, and the final product will serve as the long-range roadmap for the City of Dunwoody for the next 20 years.
The Community Development Department processed over 1,100 building permits and provides staff support to 9 citizen boards with 65 community volunteers. These boards have been meeting throughout FY 2009, serving our community with distinction.
Public Works spent a significant portion of FY 2009 analyzing road conditions and prioritizing transportation improvements. This work will culminate in a transportation master plan to provide the “roadmap” for funding public infrastructure improvements for the future. The City of Dunwoody spent considerable funds in FY 2009 filling potholes, repairing sidewalks, maintaining signals and completing other public works projects. The most substantial project the City worked on this year was the transportation improvements on Womack Road to accommodate the new Dunwoody Elementary School. In addition to turn lanes and striping, the Public Works Department installed radar display devices in all of our school zones to curb speeding in areas where pedestrians and children are present. Later this year, the City will drive all of our major roadways with a laser truck to analyze pavement conditions and to provide the City with the data necessary to prioritize road projects on a “worst-first” basis.
During the Spring of this year, the City created a Storm Water Utility (SWU). The SWU charges a fee to all property owners to finance repairs and maintenance to the storm water system in Dunwoody. The fee charged equals the fee paid the previous year to DeKalb County. The SWU is an enterprise fund, and the revenue generated from this utility stays within the accounts of the Utility. It is self-sustaining, and no General Fund dollars are used for this purpose.
Fiscal Year 2010 will be an exciting year for the City of Dunwoody. The proposed budget contains adequate funding to provide “best in class” basic services to the citizens of Dunwoody. This budget focuses specifically on the following priorities: (1) Strengthening the Dunwoody Police Department, (2) Concentrating resources for infrastructure improvements, and (3) Providing for the future financial stability of the City.
To this end, I recommend a number of budget enhancements for the Dunwoody Police Department. As a matter of history, the City formed the Department in 90 days; without the benefit of meaningful data with which to accurately project the needs of the department. Based on our experience thus far in answering calls for service, the expectations of the community in regards to police presence and recommended national standards for caseloads and call volume, I recommend an enhancement to the staffing level for the Police Department. The Department’s manpower study concluded the need for 4 Police Officers and 2 Detectives. Due to fiscal restraints and competing priorities, I recommend the addition of 1 Detective. In addition, I recommend one additional sworn position for a Narcotics Task Force officer. This position would be assigned to a Federal Drug Task Force that would handle narcotics cases in the metro Atlanta area. The City would benefit from any seized funds recovered by this officer. Typically, the full cost of the officer yields a return to the City to be used for the exclusive purpose of funding capital and equipment needs in the Police Department. I also recommend the purchase of a backup vehicle for the Police Department. This vehicle would be used to replace a vehicle that is damaged or in the process of undergoing repairs. It is critical to have a backup vehicle to avoid having more than one officer in a car at any given time. The other major item in the Police Departments budget is the purchase of a prisoner transport van. This will aid the Department in transporting multiple subjects to the Jail without having to take more than one vehicle out of service. This occurs any time we have more than 2 persons being arrested or any time we arrest a female and a male, as it is illegal to transport a man and women together in a police vehicle. The prison transport van will be configured to separate male and female prisoners so that they can ride at the same time to the Jail.
I also recommend the funding of a 911 feasibility and planning study allowing the City to accurately project revenue that would be raised through a 911 fee in Dunwoody and to estimate the costs of developing a 911 center. The study will also carefully research options for partnerships with the Sandy Springs/Johns Creek 911 center and other municipal options in the surrounding area. The City will be participating in a partnership with Sandy Springs and Johns Creek to form a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. I recommend funding for SWAT equipment for our department. The benefit to this endeavor is the ability to call in a large SWAT team for situations in Dunwoody without having to provide the extensive resources necessary if we were to offer this service independently. The FY 2010 budget also includes funding for a false alarm program to cut down on officer time responding to errant home and business alarms. Lastly, the FY 2010 budget funds a “reverse 911” type program to inform residents of natural disasters and crime notifications.
The Public Works Department budget includes funding for $540,000 to right of way maintenance, street and sidewalk repairs and traffic signal maintenance. Additionally, the Public Works budget includes funding the comprehensive transportation plan ($60,000). Funding for this plan was originally appropriated in FY 2009, but due to delays in running the laser truck to evaluate pavement conditions, the plan will be finished in FY 2010. The FY 2010 budget focuses resources in Public Works on resurfacing and intersection improvements. Dunwoody covers a large geographic area, and the infrastructure of the city is generally in poor condition. It will take many years of capital investments to bring the road system up to the level our community expects. The FY 2010 budget utilizes both local and state funding to continue the paving projects we began in FY 2009. We anticipate spending nearly $1.2 million on repaving ($980,000 from State of Georgia and $200,000 from Dunwoody) with the majority of the funding coming from State Local Assistance Road Program (LARP) funds. There is $800,000 of expenditures in the budget to begin construction on Dunwoody Village Parkway for a new streetscape. Engineering for this project should begin in early FY 2010 and construction will soon follow. State (Transportation Enhancement (TE) Funds) and Federal funds (Stimulus) entirely pay for this project. I also recommend $100,000 of funding to begin the process of replacing and adding sidewalks to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. The confluence of schools (Dunwoody High School, Peachtree Middle, Chestnut Elementary, Dunwoody Elementary and Georgia Perimeter College) created a traffic congestion issue within a large radius of these schools.
I recommend two key intersections for engineering design to kick start the process of intersection improvements to help move vehicles in this congested corridor. I recommend engineering studies and concept plans ($150,000) for the intersection of Mt. Vernon at Vermack Road and the intersection of Tilly Mill Road at North Peachtree. The current design of these two intersections exacerbates the traffic congestion in Dunwoody caused by the schools in the area.
The City of Dunwoody is still in the process of negotiating for the transfer of physical assets from DeKalb County within our city limits. In anticipation of a successful resolution to the parks negotiations, I have forecast that the City will be responsible for maintaining these parks for a portion of the calendar year. The FY 2010 budget anticipates that the City will be required to maintain, improve, and manage these assets for half of the Fiscal Year ($250,000.)
As the Comprehensive Planning process is completed in the first few months of 2010, it is appropriate to begin our planning efforts to make changes to the zoning ordinance and create redevelopment plans for various areas of the City that have been identified in the Comprehensive Plan process. The FY 2010 budget includes funds for Phase One of the task of re-writing the zoning code. The zoning code in place currently is a conglomeration of the DeKalb County code and various other cities. It was cobbled together quickly so that the City could begin regulating development as soon as possible. It also is not necessarily reflective of the results of the community based planning process we are set to complete early next year. It is expected that the process of rewriting the zoning code will take multiple years. FY 2010 funding is recommended for Phase One ($100,000.)
I recommend funding two redevelopment studies for FY 2010. The Comprehensive Plan steering committee identified the Georgetown/Shallowford Road area and the Dunwoody Village area as two areas of the City that require master planning. The cost for both of these master plan studies is $250,000. It is critical to do the planning required for these areas to ensure that both areas are not allowed to deteriorate and that the community’s vision for the area is realized instead of leaving the development to chance.
The City will be utilizing Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) financing in FY 2010 to level out cash flow problems that any new incorporated city would experience in their first few years of existence. We estimate the TAN will be approximately $4,000,000, and it will only be used on a “draw” basis to make certain that we are only paying interest on funds that we vitally need for cash flow purposes. Additionally, the City made a strategic decision in FY 2009 to reserve $530,179 for FY 2010 payments on our equipment financing arrangements. The City purchased a lot of equipment and vehicles in FY 2009 and has financed these purchases over a five-year period. Year one payments are due in January. Due to the preplanning efforts of the Council, the City will use the reserved funds ($530,179) to offset the total payment due on the financing ($785,703). This will leave the City an obligation of $255,524 for FY 2010.
To provide the most efficient and effective services to our citizens, the City relies heavily on engaging the most effective technology available. Looking back on the rapid deployment of City services, the impact of the technology selected is apparent. The FY 2010 budget includes funding necessary to maintain our technological resources to ensure a secure and reliable technical environment, increase accessibility of the citizens, increase productivity, and provide results oriented technology in an open, accountable, and responsive manner. The IT staff plans to develop and implement processes throughout FY 2010 and into early FY 2011 to enhance the City’s website to allow citizens to interact electronically with government, creating in essence a 24/7 electronic government where citizens and businesses can access government services and can complete tax payments online. By using process automation and data integration, IT aims to lower the technology cost of the City while increasing production. The FY 2010 includes expenditures related to an integrated financial accounting and asset management system, document management system, ordinance codification, human resources management system, e-government website portal, and unified communications. The IT Staff also plans to begin the GIS development process in support of the Community Development department.
I look forward to discussing this budget with you and the City in detail as we craft the final budget for FY 2010.
You have my commitment that the City of Dunwoody will not be a replica of what has been done in the past, but instead we will be an innovative, transparent and dynamic local government, where billions of dollars in commerce are transacted and families live a charmed life in a beautiful community.
Mr. Warren Hutmacher
Dunwoody City Manager