The beginning of summer is often dominated by holidays and vacations, but July 1 marks an important day for local and state governments. A new fiscal year began that day and with it came new budgets for the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta, the Beltline, Atlanta Public Schools, and more. Here’s a quick roundup of what took effect at the beginning of the month.
Georgia’s budget is good for law enforcement, bad for higher ed
The $32.4 billion total represents a 7% uptick from the 2023 budget of $30.2 billion. Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget includes a $2,000 pay raise for state employees and a $500 cost-of-living increase for retirees.
That pay increase was doubled for law enforcement officers, who got a $4,000 raise on July 1. An extra $1.5 million is earmarked for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to increase its forensic science staff and $2.7 million for the cold case unit.
K-12 teachers got a $2,000 pay raise, increasing the average teacher salary in Georgia to $61,000. There was also a $1,000 supplement for school custodians. However, higher education got cut by $87 million from public colleges and universities, including a $66 million slash to the University System of Georgia’s funds.
Highlights of Atlanta’s biggest-ever budget
Mayor Andre Dickens’ proposed 2024 City of Atlanta general fund budget made headlines for its hefty $790 million price tag—the largest in city history.
Dickens proclaimed this the Year of the Youth and allocated $2.5 million for summer youth employment, $1.8 million for Atlanta’s At-Promise Youth Centers, and $2 million for Parks and Rec youth programming.
Other notable budget bumps:
—Atlanta’s first-ever labor department officially launched with the new fiscal year on July 1, with $500,000 allocated for staff salaries. The mayor will hire two additional employees for the new department, including a commissioner.
—More than $8 million is dedicated to the affordable housing trust fund, a more than 15% increase from the previous year. Yet, as Atlanta Civic Circle’s Sean Keenan notes, it falls short of the $11.8 million called for by the Atlanta City Council legislation that established the trust in 2021.
—Ten million was earmarked for continued premium pay for frontline and essential workers, which started during the pandemic, plus a citywide cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment.
—The police department’s operating budget got a $10.4 million increase—including an estimated $6.2 million for officers’ salaries and $6.2 million to purchase vehicles and equipment for police and fire departments.
—$32 million for the city’s parks improvement fund thanks to a new city ordinance. The fund currently generates about $16 million for park maintenance, but that funding has been doubled.
Atlanta Public Schools invest in teachers, staff salaries
APS’s $1.6 billion budget that took effect July 1 is up about 15% from $1.4 billion last year. The increase is mainly due to pay raises, a slight increase in student enrollment, more money for safety and security, and funding for school board elections. APS’s per-student spending is projected at $22,622—up from $19,970 for the current fiscal year. That is approximately double the 2023 Georgia average of $11,200 per pupil.
The bigger budget is offset by bigger-than-expected revenues. Local funding, mostly from property taxes, is projected at $847 million for the next fiscal year, up from an estimated $807 million this year. State funding, which makes up about 20% of APS’s budget, is expected to increase by $4 million higher, primarily because of an increase in state-funded health benefits.
APS will spend $490 million on teacher and staff compensation for the upcoming school year—a 13.8% increase. That includes a one-time $3,000 retention payment for teachers in what it calls “critical needs” areas, such as special education or math.
The Beltline’s big year of spending
Thanks to additional revenue sources, the Beltline’s $153.6 million budget is a 30% increase over the 2023 budget of $117 million. That figure is over five times higher than the Beltline’s 2020 budget of $28.6 million.
Slightly over a third of the 2024 budget ($57.1 million) will go to the design and construction of the trail and adjacent parks. The Beltline has budgeted $56.2 million (36%) to acquire property for affordable housing and commercial sites within the TAD district, more than double the $26 million it spent the previous year. Another $15.5 million, or 10% of the Beltline’s budget, is earmarked for affordable housing development, including site planning and partnerships with private developers.
So far, almost 16 miles of the 22-mile Beltline loop have been built or are in the works, and fully 80% of the loop – or 17.6 miles – is projected to be complete or under construction by the end of next year.