Writer: Zoe Seiler
Published September 5, 2019
The Avondale Estates City Commission met on Wednesday evening, Sept. 4, to discuss a policy on tax-exempt debt as well as the budgets for 2019 and 2020.
The board also met as the Urban Redevelopment Agency to pass a resolution that includes the tax-exempt debt policy and clarification on the maturity of any bonds.
The tax-exempt policy has been adopted in order to ensure that the bond proceeds will be used for public purposes and establishes that the finance director will monitor this, City Manager Patrick Bryant said during the meeting.
“In order to provide confidence to both the court, who validates a bond issuance…and any investors who want to purchase those bonds, it’s a good idea for a municipality to adopt a financial policy that ensure both the court and investors in the bonds that the proceeds for bond will be used for public purposes only, and that you have a mechanism in place to monitor the use of those proceeds to ensure that they are used for a public purpose,” Bryant said.
The city wants to borrow money to develop five acres owned by the city and the Downtown Development Authority along North Avondale Road. Projects include a town green. The city is working on an agreement with Fabric Developers to develop the rest of the property.
The DDA is also taking on a project to develop a stormwater solution for those five acres.
The board has not issued any bonds and does not plan to do so for three years. The first step in the process is issuing a bond anticipation note or BAN, “which functions as a line of credit that we can borrow from,” Bryant said.
“The bond anticipation note lasts for a three-year period. After that period, once we’re finished borrowing funds through that bond anticipation note, then we have to come back and issue an actual bond to pay off the bond anticipation note,” he added.
Decaturish previously reported that the city would only borrow the necessary amount to complete the projects and not borrow the entire amount of the BAN. The BAN also will no incur debt immediately.
The City Commission also discussed an amendment to the 2019 budget. Previously, the board has amended the budget after the end of the year, but this year they are amending the budget during the year, “so that amendment is made in real time to reflect what we believe expenditures and revenues will end up being,” Bryant said during the meeting.
In order to adopt the amendment as an ordinance, the board will have to hold three readings of the amendment at regular or special called meetings of the board. The first reading will be on Monday.
The board began discussions of the 2020 budget with a general idea of the starting point for the operating and capital budgets. Bryant encouraged the commissioners to determine spending priorities for 2020 as they can develop a detailed budget.
Deputy City Manager Paul Hanebuth said the city is working with the Carl Vinson Institute on a compensation and classification study. They anticipate there will be some compensation adjustments, so they have to build that into the budget. For example, some public works departments may vary from year to year.
“For the police department, I assumed that the entire police department would be 100 percent staffed for 100 percent of the year, and all promotions will be completely filled for the whole year,” he said. “Now we know that’s an ideal situation that’s not likely to happen in practice, so hopefully that builds in a little bit of cushion in the personnel budget for the police department.”
As part of the CVI study, the city is also looking at the role of its city planner. Keri Stevens, an assistant city manager for the city, became the city’s first planner in 2010. She recently left for another job in Gwinnett County. The city hired a consultant Shannon Powell for one month for $9,600. Bryant said Powell’s proposal was the lowest one the city received. She will be working approximately 24 hours a week. He called Powell’s hiring a “trial balloon” to see if it was a “good fit” for the city.
“Before we hire someone permanently, we want to get a better idea of what the roles and responsibilities will be,” Bryant said, referring to the CVI study. “We decided hiring a consultant to perform some of those duties was most advantageous to the organization.”
As part of the budget discussion, Hanebuth noted the parks and sanitation departments have higher turnover levels, so he did not assume each department would be fully staffed for the entire year. He assumed Carl Vinson will recommend that all employees be paid at least $15 per hour, which would increase the pay of some employees.
Mayor Jonathan Elmore asked for any questions and comments regarding the budget. Dee Merriam, a former CDC employee and a city Zoning Board member who is running for City Commission in the Nov. 5 elections, suggested the board hold public meetings or workshop so people can learn more about the city’s budget process. Elmore said that is something the City Commission can consider.