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Clarkston considers next year’s budget and downtown development

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Clarkston considers next year’s budget and downtown development

L to R, Council member Susan Hood, Mayor Beverly Burks, Council member Awet Eyasu, Council member Jamie Carroll, Council member Laura Hopkins, Council member YT Bell. Photo by Sara Amis

Clarkston, GA — Finance Director Dan Defnall and Interim City Manager Tammi Saddler Jones presented their recommendations for the city’s Fiscal Year 2024 operating and enterprise budget at a public hearing ahead of the city council’s regular work session Nov. 28.

Jones said that the main priorities were hiring necessary new staff and expanding office space for city employees.

The budget includes a 3% cost of living adjustment for all city employees effective July 1, 2024, and reflects increased cost of services and expenditures for continuing operations. The budget does not call for a millage rate increase.

General fund expenditures will increase from $7.5 million in FY 2023 to $9.2 million in FY 2024. Total expenditures will increase from $12.3 million in FY23 to $15.8 million in FY24. Revenues are expected to match expenditures, including $3.3 million from the recently approved SPLOST II fund.

Workforce expenditures include an increase to a $20 per hour minimum wage and seven new positions including an assistant city manager, assistant city clerk, human resources director, special events coordinator, records clerk, permit clerk, and parks/pool attendant for a total of $563,966.

New office space including lease, moving expenses, and equipment is budgeted at $575,000.

In other city council business:

— Planning and Economic Development Manager Adleasia “Lisa” Cameron presented a promised resolution activating a new Downtown Development Authority. Cameron said that the city can use the DDA as a project management template for financing projects and economic development in the designated areas.

Cameron used the previous DDA boundaries from 2020 as a starting point, but Council member Laura Hopkins pointed out that since the “downtown” area doesn’t have to be contiguous, some additional areas could be added such as businesses along Brockett Road.

Mayor Beverly Burks has stated a desire to get the DDA established before the end of the year. Council member Jamie Carroll noted that in order to meet that deadline, the council would likely need to hold a special called meeting to decide on boundaries and other questions before approving the resolution.

State law governs the establishment of development authorities, including the makeup of the board of directors. Out of seven board members for the DDA, one can be the mayor or a member of the city council, and one can be a Georgia resident who must have an economic interest in the downtown development area. The remaining five must be either Clarkston residents or DeKalb County residents who are business owners or operators, at least three of whom have an economic interest in the DDA area.

— Other items under consideration by the council include whether to pay Davenport, LLC a retainer of $20,000 for financial advisory services for 2023, or request an invoice for services rendered. An agreement for the retainer was given to former city manager Shawanna Qawiy in December 2022, but was not presented to the city council.

“We will do what the council wants us to do,” said Davenport Vice President Ricardo Comejo.

Defnall pointed out that for the anticipated DDA, the city is going to need significant support from Davenport and recommended an agreement for a retainer going forward.

— The city is considering a five-year agreement with Flock Group for license plate readers which will cost $2500 per camera per year, for a total of $42,500 per year. In addition, an agreement with Fursus would allow the Clarkston police department access to data from private security cameras on a volunteer basis.

Public commenter John Watson said that the council should restrict how any information gathered with those cameras is shared. Watson said that Flock potentially shares information outside the US and that could be a concern for Clarkston residents who are refugees.

— The city is considering a $6500 agreement with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to find an assistant chief of police.

— The council learned that if the city wants to change administration of film and TV production permitting from the city clerk to the planning and economic development, that requires an ordinance change.

— The city plans to modify its litter ordinance to comply with Georgia Environmental Protection Department stormwater protection requirements.

— Jones suggested adding Friday Dec. 22 and Friday Dec. 29 as city holidays in order to allow city staff to have an extra day off on those weekends.

— The city will consider next steps for Brockett Triangle, especially the need for ongoing maintenance. Councilmember Awet Eyasu said that similar help is needed in other areas where the city has planted or plans to plant trees. 

— The council is considering some changes in board policies and procedures, including some aimed at limiting meeting lengths and new policies on absences and conflicts of interest. Councilmember Susan Hood called what they have so far a good start, but she thinks it requires much more discussion and should be taken up at the council retreat early next year.

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