Sanitation workers raise stink, land pay raises
Atlanta's City Council averted further walk-offs by city employees, including sanitation workers, and placated cops and firefighters when it passed the city's 2001 budget Monday with raises for all.
Now the challenge will be living within the means of a $472.5 million budget that leaves little room for wiggling.
The city finance department came up with the extra money for $2,000 raises for cops, firefighters, corrections officers and other blue-collar workers by ratcheting up the city's 2001 revenue projections to the highest level it could under the law.
"It's going to be very difficult to live within this budget," says councilwoman Felicia Moore. "It would have been difficult before the raises."
Councilwoman Clair Muller said she wanted to forego major raises planned for upper-level city executives, raises that are as high as $20,000 per year.
Councilman Lee Morris managed to provide a little budget oversight and a possible remedy to a budget flaw that nearly cost city cops their promised $2,000 bonuses in 2000.
The problem: city departments can overspend their budgets with impunity. Last year, the Corrections Department was the main culprit with $9 million in overruns. To make up the shortfall, the city was forced to spend the money it had been saving by letting police positions it had funded go unfilled.
With Morris' measure, a department head who needs extra money from the till will have to go through the public embarrassment of coming back before the council to explain why it overspent.
The budget process isn't over quite yet, because the mayor still has to approve it and has the power of the line item veto.