by Robin Kemp

5:41 p.m.: CLARIFIES sports not cut, just line item designations

The Forest Park City Council will hold what is likely its final meeting on the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, following requests from attendees to give the public more time to go over the document.

The city had scheduled a previous public hearing, which no members of the public attended in person, while quietly dropping the city livestream.

Each speaker will have three minutes to address the council tonight on the proposed $34,714,281 budget. Here are the fund summaries, which are broad totals for money going in and out:

Fund summaries for the City of Forest Park’s FY2022 proposed budget.

Budget 101

The proposed budget is based on the fiscal year, which starts on July 1, rather than the calendar year, which starts on January 1.

Until the council votes to approve the budget, none of that money is available to spend; the city cannot function without a budget, so getting it passed before July 1 is important.

The budget breaks down two major categories: revenues (money coming in) citywide and expenditures (money going out) by department.

Each department has to show what it spent last fiscal year and how much it’s asking for in the new fiscal year. The budget doesn’t show every single purchase order or receipt a department spent. Instead, it shows the total amount spent for different kinds of expenses (such as office supplies or public relations). Under each departmental category, you’ll see a long string of numbers. That string shows the exact budget code for that line item. The line item is the name of how the department spent that particular pot of money.

In this example, from the Department of Legislative Offices (the mayor and city council), you can see:

  • what account the money came from (“100-General Fund”)
  • the spending categories (“Personal Serv. & EE Bene” and “Purchased/Contract Svc.”)
  • the line item code and name for each item (for example, “100-20-1110-51-1101 Mayor and Council Salary”)
  • how much was spent last fiscal year (“Current Budget”)
  • how much the department wants to spend in FY 2022 (“Budget”)
  • and how much of a change that is
    • both in dollars (“Variance”)
    • and as a percent of the previous fiscal year’s budget (“Percent”)
    • If a number appears in parentheses, that means the same thing as a minus sign and means the city spent or plans to spend less on that item. No parentheses around a number means the city spent or plans to spend more. A “0” variance means the spending level is not expected to change:

Excerpt from Forest Park FY2022 Proposed Budget showing fund source (upper left), department, spending categories, and line items. The first column of numbers shows what the city spent last fiscal year. The second shows what it hopes to spend between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. The third shows the proposed spending change in dollars. The fourth translates the spending change to a percentage. For example, the Communications line item shows the city spent $2,000 on communications contracts in FY 2021 but plans to spend $38,000 in FY2022. That’s an increase of $36,000 or 1,800%.

More information

The budget contains more information besides these line items. Each department provides a “Line-Item Explanation Schedule” following its numbers, which gives a basic explanation of each line item. That’s important for understanding why a large change like the 1,800% increase for “Communications” is proposed:

The line-item explanation schedule offers brief explanations for changes in spending. For example, the $38,000 increase in spending under “Communications” is “based on the hiring of Public Relations Firm,” according to this summary.

You also will find organizational charts, which show who is in charge of each department (at the top) and the employees or proposed positions that the city wants to add to the budget:

This organizational chart of the City of Forest Park Executive Offices places the mayor and council in charge of the department. Below them are two positions the city wants to add in FY2022: a proposed deputy city manager and a proposed public information officer.

The Executive Offices (the mayor, city council, and city manager) want to add two new positions: a deputy city manager to take on some of the city manager’s many tasks, and a public information officer to coordinate information and public relations about the city.

These two professional positions would cost $253,000 under the proposed FY2022 budget:

Sample job descriptions for each proposed new position also appear in the budget:

Excerpt from 3-page job description for a proposed deputy city manager position from Forest Park’s FY2022 proposed budget.

Going through the budget yields more information about the state of the city’s staffing. For example, the city has no finance director at this time (it does have a deputy finance director, Darquita Williams, acting as the department head). The Finance Department is asking to add a staff accountant position, and does not have anyone in its current business license position.

The city also plans to spend $12,000 on new decals for city vehicles.

Funding the police

The Police Department is asking for a 7.21% increase of $684,178, putting its projected budget at $10,179,524, up from $9,495,346. That includes an additional $119,940 in salaries for FY2022, as well as another $100,000 for overtime pay–a 63 percent increase over the previous year, which has seen about 30 longtime officers leave the force. The “prisoner expense” line item is up 175% from $20,000 to $55,000. Other increases $150,000 for air cards and maintenance (a 400% increase above FY 2021’s $30,000) and $115,500 for radio equipment (a 1,055% increase over FY2021’s $10,000).

The department wants the salary increase “based on the hiring of (1) Accreditation/Quality Assurance Coordinatior,” who Chief Nathaniel Clark has said would be responsible for making sure the department could keep up with CALEA accreditation requirements, “and (1) Grant Administrator.” The request for overtime pay “is based on overtime pay for officers reference [sic] special events.” The air card/maintenance increase is “due to the implementation of body cameras, cell phones, and additional air cards.” The prisoner expense line item increase is due to “the purchase of an AFIS [Automated Fingerprint Identification System] interface.”

The department also wants an additional $21,600 (up 48% to $66,600) for facility maintenance and services, “based on the hiring of a cleaning service for the PD.”

When is a cut a cut?

It’s important to note that sometimes a cut is not always a cut. It may just indicate a change in how the funds for a particular line item are being accounted for.

Recreation and Leisure Services has four staff vacancies: a senior leader, two recreation leaders, and a maintenance worker. Overall, it has cut the FY2022 budget by $8,257.

Programs that appear to have been dropped include soccer/self pay (-$9,000), girls’ fast-pitch softball (-$2,000), youth baseball (-$4,500), T-ball (-$5,000), youth basketball (-$11,000), adult recreation (-$10,000), and community buildings (-$1,500).

However, the line-item explanation shows that youth basketball, youth baseball, and special events are line-item increases.

We asked Recreation Director Tarik Maxwell to clarify whether any of those line-item cuts for individual sports actually mean program cuts or whether they are all being lumped together under the “athletic program” line item for accounting purposes.

Not to worry, he says: “All our athletic programs are being consolidated under the athletic program line item.” That’s why you have to look at where the money goes within each department, not just individual line items in isolation.

The department also has cut $5,700 for special projects while adding $5,643 for special events. The “athletic program” is up 866.67%, from $6,000 to $58,000, an increase of $52,000. Facility supplies are up $8,000 (117.65%) from $6,800 to $14,800 and facility maintenance and repairs are up $5,000 or 12.20% from $41,000 to $46,000.

Work, work, work, work, work

Public Works is looking for an increase of $20,350 or .57% in its $3,562,050 request for FY2022. They’re cutting $10,000 in software program maintenance and adding $20,000 for “schools, seminar, travel”–a 400% increase over last fiscal year’s $5,000 allocation. They’ve also asked for another $200–a 66.67% increase– in postage, which cost $300 in FY2021. Other line-item spending increases include a new $5,000 for facility supplies (up $2,000 or 66.67%), $25,000 for facilities maintenance and repair (up $5,000 or 25%), and $28,000 for uniforms and rainwear (up $3,000 or 12%). The line item for right-of-way enhancements remains steady at $16,000, as does street maintenance at $30,000. Salaries are also unchanged at $1,427,512, as are overtime ($49,000), telephones ($26,000), mosquito control chemicals ($4,000), fleet gas charge ($130,000), fleet equipment maintenance ($104,000), fleet labor charge ($79,000), fleet overhead charge ($30,000), and “warning regulatory” ($20,000).

The explanation for “schools, seminars, training” notes, “This line item reduced to meet budget requirements.” The expenses cover “mileage, meals, and lodging for training and travel” and include:

  • $6,000: APWA Public Works Association meetings 2 annually — Athens and St. Simons
  • $2,500: Misc. in-service training
  • $550: CVIG [Carl Vinson Institute for Government at UGA] training
  • $2,500: Parks Department park and playground safety training, herbicide/pesticide training

Director Bobby Jinks wrote, “Increased due to added classes for employees in HVAC, CDL, E&S. I plan on sending our department employees to any and all training available.”

“Warning regulatory” covers “sign repairs, posts, brackets, street marking, metal blanks, other material, and city limit sign replacement,” and references “Parks budget line item.”

The uniforms and rainwear line item represents an “Increase due to sanitation uniform expenses now in this line item. Sanitation uniform line [item] now $0.” In other words, the cost of sanitation uniforms was shifted to the uniforms and rainwear line item, not eliminated.

Planning for planning

Planning, Building, and Zoning’s overall budget went up one-tenth of a percent or $1,000 to $967,478.

The department offers these explanations for the following line-item increases:

  • $72,471 to create a Project Manager position and Code Enforcement Incentive program
  • $18,914 for a “contract with EGOV for online permitting and Code Enforcement software”
  • $1,000 to cover an increase in Code Enforcement cases and mailings
  • $2,788 “based on Phone Services removed from City Hall’s Invoices for Cell Phones”
  • $200 for Code Enforcement officer exams
  • $2,000 in COVID-19 related office items
  • $1,080 for “new Janitorial Services and Supplies”
  • $1,000 utilities increase
  • $1,500 for “Uniform Replacement”

Curb your pet

Animal control is seeking a .9% increase of $1,150 to $129,212. Of that, $85,354 goes to salaries, with another $500 in holiday pay and $550 in overtime, all of which are unchanged over FY2021. The only increase is $1,150 for new uniforms.

Money to burn, or not

The Fire Department’s EMS proposed budget for FY2022 is $2,323,415, up $495,574 or 27.11%.

FPFD-EMS is seeking an additional $168,937 (a 10.43% increase), mostly for salary and related workers comp and insurance increases “for previous and new staff,” training equipment, and new radios, walkie-talkies, and training aids. Other requests for new spending include a 100% increase of $8,000 (to $16,000) under the EMS Medical Director for “doctors new fee,” $29,305 for Diversified Collection Agency, and $32,535 for first aid and medical supplies (up 107.2%). CERT supplies are budgeted for $1,000. The ambulance rebuild is $150,000 and EMS computer gear is $28,850.

On the fire side, the total proposed FY2022 budget is $6,004,077, up 14.22% or $752,448. This is mostly due to upgrades to old equipment and stations. A $137,760 salary line increase ($3,243,770, up 4.44%) would cover “previous staff, deputy chief, and admin support.” Firefighter salaries and benefits are up 3.53% to $4,841,025. Last fiscal year, the department spent $36,190 on suppression uniform supply. Facility maintenance and repairs are up 747.59% to $381,416. The firefighters are also asking for $158,429 for new fire hoses.

The Fire Department also included a job description for a new Health Safety Officer position, another for a medical services officer, and a third for a lieutenant to serve as training officer in the Fire Training Division. This comes after longtime Training Captain Jon Baker’s promotion to Battalion Chief. Captain Keith King was promoted to training officer and the department wants to add a second training officer.

Where is your emergency?

Emergency Management Services offered a budget totalling $3,500, unchanged from FY2021, and consisting of:

  • $250 postage
  • $930 telephones
  • $500 schools, seminars, etc.
  • $500 office supplies
  • $300 general department expenses
  • $1,020 equipment

Grand total

City spending is proposed at $34,714,351 for FY2022, which is a 17.07% increase of $5,062,972 over the previous year.

While total projected revenues are up $8,031,532 or 30.1%, the FY2022 budget’s revenues under expenditures (shortfall) total is -$2,968,559.

One more thing

The Sanitation Fund is included at the very end of the proposed budget. The FY2022 charge for sanitation services is $4,763,219–up 10.39%, or $448, 319. That includes $2,771,859 for refuse pickup (up $121,859 or 4.6%), $44,467 for “other revenue/sale of scrap” (up $18,067 or 68.44%), $964,276 in fees for compactors (up $189,276 or 24.42%), and $972,617 for roll-off fees (up $149,517 or 18.17%).

Under Sanitation Fund Administration, a line item under Other Costs shows $1,675,603 “transfer to General Fund” is up 86.18% or $775,603. Last fiscal year, that line was $900,000.

Checks and balances

You can read a copy of the budget online at