Recap: Atlanta City Council unanimously approves city budget, increases police budget by $15 million

Atlanta City Council\’s vote to adopt the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. Source: The Mainline Staff.

ATLANTA — On Mon., June 7, Atlanta City Council moved to pass the budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) proposed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The new fiscal year will begin on July 1. 

The total budget for FY22 general funds is about $710 million, featuring an overall increase from the FY21 budget of about $37 million with much of the increase going to police and fire departments. 

Council members present include Michael Bond (Post 1), Amir Farokhi (District 2), Jennifer Ide (District 6) , Andrea Boone (District 10), Matt Westmoreland (Post 2), Antonio Brown (District 3), Howard Shook (District 7), Marci Overstreet (District 11), Andre Dickens (Post 3), Cleta Winslow (District 4), J.P. Matzigkeit (District 8), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Carla Smith (District 1), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), and Dustin Hillis (District 9). All members voted unanimously in favor of passing the budget.

[ Related: Councilmember Joyce Sheperd introduces ordinance to lease land to Atlanta Police Foundation to build training facility ]

Policing continues to make up a sizable portion of the city’s budget, accounting for about one-third of the total general budget with about $230 million of the FY22 Budget, an increase of 7.08% from the previous year. The continued bloating of the police budget comes at the heels of calls from local activists and residents over the past year to defund the police. The city council voted to approve an amendment that would increase funding for Operation Shield Camera to maintain the camera systems, which Chief Bryant advocated for in the past. Additionally, the budget will allow for potential pay raises for police officers as well as funding to replace current vacancies within the police department.

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Atlanta residents flooded the lines with about two hours of public comment, most of whom opposed increasing the police budget. Most of the callers urged council members to vote against increasing the police budget and instead invest in communities and restorative justice services. Many cited the option of decreasing the police budget by $10 million instead. Numerous commentators underscored the importance of restorative over punitive measures. Despite public comment urging council members to vote against the budget and a year-plus of demands to defund the police, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously to approve the budget and its increases for police spending. 

Last year, the Mainline reported that public comment encompassed almost 17 hours as residents voiced, urged, and advocated for divestment from the police budget in favor of amplifying necessary community services. Still, in a near parallel, the city council continued to move to increase the police budget. 

Mayor Bottoms applauded the leadership of the city council and her pride in their ability to weather the pandemic. During the council meeting, she stated, “By passing this budget, important work toward achieving the city\’s equitable growth and recovery continues. This budget will enable us to strengthen public safety.” Since Bottoms has announced she will not be running for re-election, this will be the last budget she proposes to City Council and one of her final steps as mayor. 

[ Related: How Atlanta’s mayoral race just blew wide open ]

Other notable items approved last week include a resolution authorizing Bottoms to apply for and accept a $175,000 grant aimed at police reform and racial justice from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Additionally, Councilmember Ide proposed a resolution to declare the Atlanta spa shooting as a “disaster” and to designate Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta as a financial vehicle of disaster relief for victims. 

Lastly, Mayor Bottoms has formally appointed Bryant to serve as the chief of the Atlanta Police Department. In her communication, she cited Bryant’s leadership beginning in June 2020, calling it a “challenging time for law enforcement agencies across the country. He led the police force with confidence and stability while social unrest and demonstrations were taking place in Atlanta and other metropolitan cities.” 

With bloated police budgets, city council’s actions this year are an eerie reminder of their loyalties after a year of protests and calls to defund the police.

Atlanta’s municipal elections, which includes all seats for city council and the mayor’s office, take place this November. The Georgia General Assembly elections take place in the fall of 2022. Stay tuned for more resources and coverage from us ahead of these elections. Subscribe to our newsletter here to stay connected.

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