ROSWELL, Ga. — The Roswell City Council has earmarked 20 percent of its federal COVID-19 relief aid for residents and businesses.
The action came as part of a slate of mid-year budget adjustments city officials unanimously approved at the Jan. 25 council meeting.
Roswell Finance Director Ryan Luckett presented council members nearly 40 budget adjustment requests totaling more than $5.3 million.
The adjustments absorbed a wish list of projects and expenditures that were not included in the original budget for the fiscal year, which began July 1.
In the wake of the 2020 pandemic and fears of declining sales tax collections and other revenues, Roswell slashed more than $8 million from the city budget. Some seven months later, the city is projecting a $4.8-million surplus in its operations funds and $3.4 million overages in the capital budget.
Among the budget amendments approved was adding $818,000 to the general fund for maintenance to the city’s 70 facilities, including repairs to the dome roof at City Hall. Other amendments included $2 million for citywide road resurfacing, $600,000 to upgrade the Wi-fi infrastructure, $90,000 to balance the city’s legal budget, nearly $40,000 to hire a new building inspector and $75,000 for a new K-9 police sergeant.
City Councilman Mike Palermo pushed for five additional budget amendments, including a $100,000 compensation study to improve pay for Roswell Police, $70,000 for a new economic development employee, $450,000 for a new turn lane along King Road near Roswell High School, transportation improvements along Woodstock Road at Ga. 92, and a $100,000 mitigation plan for the new Ga. 400 express lanes near Grimes Bridge.
Outside the operating and capital spending adjustments, Mayor Lori Henry said the city still has $2.8 million in reserves from the $3.9 million it received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Henry said the remaining funds were reimbursements Fulton County paid the city for COVID-19 expenditures Roswell doled out prior to the CARES Act funding trickling in last September.
Henry proposed setting $800,000 aside to create a COVID-19 relief program for Roswell residents and owners of brick-and-mortar businesses in town. The mayor sought to carve out $400,000 worth of grants for struggling businesses and the other half for mortgage and rent payments, food reimbursements, utilities and other expenses for residents in need.
“I’m just asking you this evening to earmark the $800,000 for that, and I will come back to this council to determine how we’re going to administer both of those programs,” she said.
Councilman Marcelo Zapata applauded Henry’s idea as an “honorable concept” but pushed back against allocating funds without having all the details. Zapata said he would like to know who would qualify for the aid and how the grants would be distributed.
“As a business owner, I always believe that the devil is in the details,” he said.
Zapata later added, “This fund would have to be very, very targeted, very laser focused on who it will go to and what kind of impact it will have on the business sector and on the private sector with our residents.”
Henry acknowledged that she didn’t have all those details ironed out yet, but she repeated that she plans to bring criteria for distributions back before the City Council for final approval.
“I’m anxious to get it done because folks are hurting out there,” she said. “So, the quicker that we can help them, the better off we’re going to be.”
Council members agreed to include the grant program among the budget approvals.