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Budget season at City Hall has begun

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Atlanta plans to spend some $605 million next fiscal year, up from the $593 million this year, under a budget proposed by Mayor Kasim Reed.

The proposal comes as new businesses and a construction boom generate more cash for Atlanta. City officials estimate that sales tax collections should rise by almost $3 million to $104.3 million for the fiscal year that begins in July. And the city is issuing more residential building permits as property tax revenues climb from a 2013 low.

From that $605 million pot of cash called the “general fund,” police receive the biggest slice, approximately $181 million. Fire services are budgeted at some $80 million. Services such as water and garbage collection together also cost hundreds of millions, but they have separate funds and are supported for the most part by user fees, not out of the general fund.

In the budget cover letter, Reed says “carefully planned, controlled expenditures over the last six years have enabled the city to expand service delivery while also capturing operating surpluses.” The city has gotten in the habit of balanced budgeting over the last six years, without a property tax or sales tax hike. Rating agencies over the last few years have upped Atlanta’s bond rating.

Financial reforms haven’t been without controversy: Just ask the city staff who challenged the legality of a city demand that they kick in more to their retirement-benefit plans.

Reed’s letter noted that this year’s elections will cost $2.2 million and that he wants to make a $10 million payment on the Beltline’s obligations to Atlanta Public Schools.

Road repaving, sidewalk fixes, new bike lanes, and other projects in the $250 million Renew Atlanta bond infrastructure program will also get underway in a bigger way this year. Reed’s letter called it “the largest infrastructure investment in more than thirty years to improve the look, feel and experience of our city.”

Budget hearings started yesterday at City Hall. You can watch the hearings on the city's website, Channel 26, or attend in person. The full council is scheduled to vote on the spending package before June 20, sending the budget and related legislation to Reed’s desk.

We've embedded the full budget after the jump. Take a look and let us know if anything catches your eye. 

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