Atlanta City Council votes on budget, hike in firefighter pay

The chair of the Atlanta Public Safety Panel told his fellow council members that giving firefighters additional pay is critical to efforts to slow the number of first responders who are leaving the department.

Dustin Hillis said with staffing shortages that fluctuate around the 250 level, there are too many times when the first engine to an emergency does not have the minimum four officers on board to do tasks.

And he said it is unsafe for the initial crew to try and do all those tasks because they are supposed to work in pairs.

The across-the-board pay boost is 3 percent. A recently completed wage study shows firefighters should get substantially more to be competitive with other agencies, such as Cobb County. That department has the best equipped and is among the highest in the state at salaries for their personnel.

Hillis said the city of Atlanta cannot be competitive if the first responders have to worry about the basics in meeting their obligations.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she will find additional cash for the men and women who answer fire calls.

Monday evening, the Atlanta City Council voted in favor of the budget. They released the following:

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' Fiscal Year 2020 budget was unanimously approved by the Atlanta City Council. The balanced budgets total $2.2 billion with a focus on the Administration's priorities including compliance, ethics and transparency, code enforcement, and public safety.

"A budget should reflect your priorities and this budget shows our commitment to One Atlanta – an affordable, resilient and equitable Atlanta – with an ethical, transparent, and fiscally responsible government," said Mayor Bottoms. "It not only invests in our city's future but further builds on the progress of preserving Atlanta as a world-class city."

Major areas of investment the Bottoms administration prioritized in the budget include the following:

·         An additional $5 million for APD for salaries and resources;

·         A total $21.3 million for resurfacing, pothole repairs and sidewalk construction programs;

·         $4.9 million in additional resources for AFRD;

·         Additional $2.8 million for parks, greenspace and recreation centers;

·         $3 million to drive progress on affordability, resilience and equity;

·         Funding to implement the City's living-wage policy increase to $15 an hour;

·         Initial funding of $750,000 to begin establishing the City of Atlanta Department of Transportation;

·         $250,000 to combat HIV/AIDS;

·         $100,000 to support the re-launch of the city's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, focusing on black male achievement in Atlanta;

·         A 3.1% pay increase for all sworn personnel in the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. This increase replicates the Phase One pay increase model of the Atlanta Police Department that was initiated in FY 19;

·         $800,000 towards the standing up of the Office of Independent Compliance. This expanded organizational unit deepens the Bottoms Administration's commitment to ethics and transparency as it looks forward to the recommendations of the Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust;

·         $150,000 for enhanced programming of senior services. Senior citizens represent an essential resource for our communities. We have a responsibility to ensure that they can age in place through access to quality and life-enriching recreational activities;

·         $40,000 to support the Code Enforcement Academy. It benefits the City of Atlanta to equip residents with a working knowledge of code enforcement in order to assist official efforts to "fight the blight" and eliminate vacant, unsafe properties that negatively impact our neighborhoods;

·         3.1% pay increases for 911 Dispatchers.  911 employees play a vital role as a link to first responders. Mayor Bottoms is committed to finding ways to recruit and retain the best talent in our continuing efforts to ensure that public safety is a priority; and

·         $50,000 for recreation center equipment to ensure that our popular community centers continue to meet the needs of our residents and stakeholders.

The Bottoms Administration appreciates the work of the Atlanta City Council during the department budget-hearing process, as it continues to commit to the presentation of a responsible plan that will move us closer to becoming "One Atlanta."

The FY2020 budget takes effect July 1, 2019.