By Joel Hall
Employees in the City of Riverdale have been promised a 2 percent pay raise, if anticipated revenues are realized in December.
The proposal is part of the city's $11.4 million fiscal 2011 budget, adopted 3-0 this week by the Riverdale City Council. Councilman Wayne Hall abstained from the vote, but did not give a reason for his abstention, during the meeting.
The budget anticipates hiring new employees to man the Riverdale Town Center Community Center, and a new planning director. It also includes $268,000 in road-repair projects. The city plans to spend $600,000 more in its next budget than in the previous fiscal year, when the budget was $10.8 million.
City Manager Iris Jessie, who put together the budget, said the 2 percent pay raise will cost $89,495.40. "There is no millage increase," she said. "We'll pay that [the pay hike] after we see how our revenues are running in December. The mayor and council wanted to do a small increase, because we haven't done anything for about two years now," she said. "They have worked really hard to keep our costs down, so we could build these new buildings," she said, referring the Riverdale Town Center project.
Jessie said, in order to prepare the city for more economic development, many of the city's departments have reduced their budgets by cutting down on travel, education, and training expenses, and office supplies. "All of the departments were encouraged to reduce their budgets, if they could."
Savings resulted, she said. "Last year, we bought five police cars. We're not buying any police cars. We're fortunate that we changed medical and dental insurance providers," she said, "and we were able to get a reduction in the cost of our insurance. There are no major equipment purchases ... it's pretty basic."
While the 2011 budget anticipates slightly less in tax revenue than the previous year -- $8.56 million this year, compared to $8.7 million the year before -- the new budget anticipates more revenue from fines and forfeitures ($2.4 million this year, compared to $1.8 million last year), and more revenue from licensing and permit fees ($331,000 this year, compared to $305,310 last year).
If everything goes as planned, Jessie said, the city will spend $250,000 to eventually fill six staff positions at the multi-purpose Community Center at the Riverdale Town Center. The money, she said, will cover the salary and benefits for a town center manager, a marketing and events specialist, and four front-desk workers. The Town Center facility is expected to open in October.
Other items in the new budget, include $268,401 earmarked to repair roads damaged by heavy rains last year, Jessie said. The targeted streets are Park Ridge Lane, Peachtree Drive, Gatwick Court, Heathrow Way, Herscu Court, Pine Place, Pinecrest Drive, and Ridgecrest Drive.
About $75,000 will be used to hire a full-time planning director for the city, Jessie said. In the wake of recent development projects, the planning director would help "shape the character of the city" by establishing architectural guidelines, updating the city's comprehensive plan, and positioning the new Town Center for new business development, she added.
In another action Wednesday, the city voted to donate a three-acre tract of land near the Riverdale Town Center to the Riverdale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for a new, full-service, Holiday Inn Hotel in the downtown area.
Riverdale DDA Executive Director Michael Syphoe said the authority will lease the land to Destination Hotels and Resorts, who will develop it under the Holiday Inn banner. He said the authority will lease the land for $50,000, with a five-year option to purchase the land for $498,000.
Syphoe said construction of the hotel will start in September and take 16 months to complete. He said the hotel would offer 140 rooms for $85 to $96 a night, a full-service restaurant, and pool, and would create 85 to 125 full-time and part-time jobs.
The city council also voted to accept a $16,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for the Riverdale Police Department to buy two, vehicle tag-identification systems.
The tag-identification system, according to Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, will be mounted to one police car per 12-hour shift, and is capable of reading hundreds of licenses plates from passing motorists and cross-referencing the data with the Georgia Crime Information Center's list for uninsured motorists, stolen cars, missing persons, and AMBER alerts.
"We have about 65,000 cars that car up and down [Ga.] Highway 85 daily," Patterson said. "If we had a vehicle with [a] tag-recognition system on it, it could scan every one of those cars."
A similar system has recently been purchased and utilized by the City of Morrow to better track stolen and uninsured vehicles. The grant will come with no match required by the city, Patterson said.