Tuesday, April 22, 2008

City Councilmember Howard Shook introduces legislation requiring a super majority of City Council to approve a tax increase

Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook, chair of the Finance/Executive Committee, has introduced a series of proposals to ensure more checks and balances for the city’s budget process.

Among the proposals, Shook is requesting that the City’s Code of Ordinances and Charter be amended so as to require a two-thirds super majority of the City Council (10 affirmative votes) to approve new or higher ad valorem taxes; any new or increase in fees; and any additional bond indebtedness to balance the 2009 budget.

The City Council is poised to receive the Mayor’s proposed 2009 City Budget on May 1.

“Raising taxes or increasing fees is not prudent in these economic times,” Shook said. “This Council will work with the administration on finding the most practical solutions to offsetting reduced revenues during the current fiscal year and next year.”

Council President Lisa M. Borders stated, “Given the current budget shortfall, it is responsible for the Council to put more controls in place to ensure sound financial management on behalf of our citizens.”

Among Shook’s other proposals are:

An ordinance requiring the annual on-line posting of the proposed budget, followed by the adopted budget (which must remain posted during the year).

An ordinance requiring that all external audits of City finances be received by the City Council Finance Committee.

A resolution requesting that the Internal Audit Committee assist the Finance Committee as it evaluates the FY09 Proposed Budget.

A resolution requesting that the Procurement Department address a specific list of procurement weaknesses identified in two previous internal audits.

In addition, Councilmember Shook is asking the City Chief Financial Officer respond and make recommendations concerning the 2004 Report of the Pension Technical Advisory Committee, which cited soaring pension costs as a major budget stressor; and that the CFO submit the Annual Actuarial Report to the Finance Committee the Annual Actuarial Report, which includes pension-related data and a detailed analysis.

All of Councilmember Shook’s proposals are in response to the city’s projected $140 million budget deficit for 2009.

The earliest the full Council could vote on the above items would be in June, concurrent with the adoption of the 2009 city budget.

The legislative items were referred to the Finance/Executive Committee for further discussion at its next meeting on Wednesday, April 30th at 12:30 p.m. in Council Committee Room #2, Atlanta City Hall, and 55 Trinity Avenue, SW.

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