ROSWELL, Ga. — In a rare move on June 14, Roswell residents applauded the City Council for passing the fiscal year 2023 budget, which includes a pay increase for police officers and funding for a full-time fire department.
The $170.6 million budget is an increase of 13.7 percent from the current year. The general fund – the part of the budget that pays for day-to-day operations, including salaries – is set at $94.6 million. That’s up by more than $12 million from last year, or about 15 percent.
Roswell’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30, 2023.
Later in the meeting, the City Council also approved an increase in occupation tax, stormwater fees, solid waste fees, water fees and merchant fees.
The FY 2023 budget includes $31.2 million for the Roswell Police Department and $13.6 million for the fire department. Within that total, $1.9 million is set aside for the “Best in Class” Police Pay Plan that is part of the administration’s 100-Day Plan.
The new pay is a 20 percent increase to starting salaries across the board. Salaries start at $58,553, with increases for prior experience and education ranging from $60,671 to $71,635. The measure puts Roswell at the top in the area for police pay. The police department plans to hire nine new full-time police officers.
Mayor Kurt Wilson said that historically, the city led the way in police pay hikes, but surrounding cities would then pass their own increases and leave Roswell back in the medium-to-low pay grade.
Police Chief James Conroy said the change will allow the department to attract and recruit currently certified police officers in Georgia who are looking for a change and want to come to Roswell.
“It will help us to attract the best of the best and get them on the streets quickly without having to put them through a full police academy,” Conroy said. “It will also reward our officers that are here and bring their salaries up to the top of our region.”
Through funding in the new budget, the fire department will also begin transitioning to a full-time public safety agency, starting with the hiring of 21 fire captains. The implementation will take place over the next five years.
The budget also includes an average 3 percent employee salary increase that will kick in Jan. 1, 2023. Other highlights of the budget are $6.4 million for Phase I and II of the Ace Sand project and $2.5 million for East Roswell Park improvements. The funds are allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Ace Sand project is part of the Riverparks Master Plan and is intended to transition the property near St. Andrew Catholic Church on Riverside Road into city greenspace.
Phase I of the East Roswell Park improvements was funded and completed in FY 2021 and FY 2022 and included landscaping the front entrance of the Art Center at East Roswell Park, trail connection and minor parking improvements with ADA access.
Priorities for Phase II and III of the project are trail connectivity from the Art Center at East Roswell Park down Fouts Road to the ball fields, additional landscaping along Fouts Road, improved parking and circulation behind the Art Center at East Roswell Park, improved lighting and upgrades to the dog park to alleviate drainage issues.
The city anticipates revenues for FY 2023 at $177 million for all funds, with expenses at $173 million. City finance officials credit the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for the increase in revenues.
The occupation tax was also adjusted from the lowest in the region to be comparable with other North Fulton County cities. The city expects to collect an additional $4 million for general fund revenue. An exemption of $100,000 will only apply to businesses reporting $100,000 or less in gross receipts. The occupation tax is capped at $85,000, whereas no cap was previously in place.
For most residential customers, stormwater fees, which are based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a property, will increase from $4.25 a month to $4.95 a month. The fee hike is expected to generate an additional $587,000 in stormwater fund revenue, allowing for a 50 percent increase in funding for stormwater capital projects.
Solid waste fees will also increase by about $1.17 a month for residential customers. Roswell Budget Manager Lynn Williams said the increase is primarily driven by the impact of the Waste Management Yard Waste and Recycling contract escalation earlier this year.
And, Williams said, the city will no longer absorb merchant fees, which typically exceed $400,000 annually across all users. Starting July 1, those who use a credit or debit card to pay bills and fees through the city will pay a service fee of 2.5 percent to cover the fees assessed by credit card processors.
Neighboring North Fulton cities like Johns Creek and Milton also pass merchant fees along to customers. Residents who currently have recurring, auto-drafted credit or debit card payments set up to pay their utility bill are encouraged to update their payment options if they would like to avoid paying the service fee.
No-fee payment method alternatives include cash or check payments, bank bill-pay for utility and property tax payments and automatic bank draft for utility payments.
City Councilwoman Christine Hall moved to approve the FY 2023 budget, which received a second from Councilwoman Lee Hills. It passed unanimously, with Councilmen Marcelo Zapata and Mike Palermo having excused absences.
Roswell is awaiting property tax digest values from Fulton County to determine this year’s property tax rate. Last year, the City Council adopted a millage rate of 4.718 mills – the lowest in more than 30 years.
To view the complete FY 2023 budget, visit roswellgov.com/budget.