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Sandy Springs approves council redistricting, salary increase

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Sandy Springs officials recently approved a measure to rework local City Council districts and increase the salaries of elected city officials.

At its May 16 meeting, the City Council heard a presentation from Mayor Rusty Paul on House Bill 601, which the Georgia General Assembly approved during the 2023-24 legislative session.

Paul said the legislation redistricts Sandy Springs to be more in line with the 2020 Census, which showed a 15 percent increase in the city’s population.

“This is something that happens every 10 years,” he said. “The request to the General Assembly this year was that we would make as minimal changes as possible to the traditional districts that we've always had since the start of the city and adjust those boundaries, simply to bring them in as close as possible to the population balance as guided by court decisions.”

A map of the new districts shows District 2 in north Sandy Springs will gain a portion of District 1 and District 3, while District 3 will gain portions of District 4 and District 5, District 6 in South Sandy Springs will also gain a large portion of District 3 north of I-285.

New Sandy Springs City Council districts map

Maps approved by the Georgia General Assembly show how Sandy Spring City Council Districts have been redistricted to accommodate the 2020 Census.

These changes will bring Sandy Springs into compliance with court decisions and Georgia laws regarding redistricting.

“We had a fairly wide difference in the population of some of the districts,” he said. “District Six and District Two needed to grow, they needed to absorb population. District Three and District Four needed to lose population.”

Paul said they tried their best to avoid splitting up neighborhoods and subdivisions, but there was at least one large subdivision that it was impossible to hold together.

“To the extent that it could be done, it was done,” he said. “It's actually a good thing for that one subdivision, I think, they now have two voices on this council instead of one.”

Along with the redistricting, the Georgia General Assembly also approved a salary increase for members of the Sandy Springs City Council and Mayor Paul.

Under House Bill 601 the mayor’s yearly salary will increase from $40,000 to $42,000 and council member salaries will increase from $18,000 to $26,000.

“This body has no authority to raise its own salary during the course of its term,” he said. “The only people that can do that is the General Assembly. Neither the council nor I asked for the raise, but the Legislature looked at what other cities in North Fulton were being paid and determined that we were a little bit out of line with the normal salaries for city council.”

These measures were unanimously approved by the City Council after a brief discussion. They will take effect July 1.

Summer camp grant

At the meeting, officials also approved a grant from the Georgia Recreation Department Association that will allow the city to provide new field trips to kids during the 2023 Explorer Summer Camp.

Recreation and Parks Program Manager Jane Jarrett said the 2023 Explorer Summer Camp provides educational opportunities for 30 kids each week for five weeks in the summer.

The grant, called the Building Opportunities in Out-of-School Time, will provide the city’s Recreation and Parks Department $2,850 to expand the summer camp program.

“This grant is just building opportunities for kids to expand on their learning,” Jarrett said. “It’s taking those science concepts they had from school and getting to have them in those out-of-school opportunities like summer camp.”

With the grant funding, Jarrett said they will be able to take underserved kids from the community to SeaQuest at Stonecrest Mall, Bricks 4 Kidz, Little Medical School and the Chattahoochee Nature Center, in addition to the field trips they already host.

“This makes our job worth it,” District 6 Councilman Andy Bauman said.

After a short discussion, the grant was unanimously approved.

Reach Alexander Popp at 770-847-7404. Follow him on Twitter @Popp2Alex.