The funding category of our 2021 policy agenda included the following recommendation:
"The City of Atlanta fulfills its obligation to set aside 3.5% of the general budget fund, representing ~$25 Million, to the Public Infrastructure Maintenance and Improvement account (per City ordinance 14-O-1513), to address critical needs such as damaged sidewalks."
We're pleased to report this recommendation not only was adopted by Atlanta City Council in 2021 but that the percentage was increased from 3.5% to 5%!
When we first realized there was existing city code that required a percentage of the annual budget to be set aside for infrastructure maintenance each year that could be used to fix sidewalks, streets, and bike/LIT (Light Individual Transportation) lanes, we wondered how those dollars were being spent. Clearly, the backlog of repairs that necessitated the Renew Atlanta bond meant it wasn’t going far.
As we looked into it further, we realized there was no good way to track the funding, and that few people were aware the requirement existed. So we included a policy recommendation in our 2021 agenda: “Fund Public Infrastructure Account.
In January 2021, we reached out to Commissioner Josh Rowan with the Atlanta Department of Transportation to learn more. Here's an excerpt from our letter:
“The City of Atlanta’s infrastructure backlog is extensive — estimated in the 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) at $900 million — and widespread, ranging from broken sidewalks to crumbling bridges. In challenging economic times like these, we cannot afford to leave any funds to maintain our public infrastructure on the table. In light of this, I’m writing to inquire about the 3.5% set aside for public infrastructure in ordinance 14-O-1513 approved by the Atlanta City Council in February of 2015.”
The 2015 ordinance read “to create a public infrastructure maintenance and improvement account for the purpose of appropriating three and one-half percent (3.5%) of the City of Atlanta General Fund Budget to be phased in over a five year period at the beginning of each fiscal year to ensure adequate annual funding for routine maintenance, repair, and replacement of public infrastructure, and for other purposes.”
But a final step was missing from the 2015 effort — City Council had to legislate a change to the City’s charter.
Commissioner Rowan worked with the Mayor’s office and Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit to make this change. A few months later, in February 2021, the fund was created.
For everyone who has decried the condition of our streets, this is an important step towards well-maintained sidewalks and bike/LIT lanes as well as a victory for greater fiscal accountability and transparency.
- Atlanta City Council 2/24/21 meeting minutes
- Ordinance 21-O-0082: COUNCILMEMBERS J.P. MATZIGKEIT, HOWARD SHOOK, ANDRE DICKENS, MATT WESTMORELAND AND AMIR R. FAROKHI TO AMEND CHARTER SUBPART A, ARTICLE 6, CHAPTER 3, SECTION 6-315 (B) SUBSECTION (3) OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA CODE OF ORDINANCES FOR THE PURPOSE OF INCREASING THE THREE AND ONE-HALF PERCENT (3.5%), APPROPRIATION OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA GENERAL BUDGET FOR THE PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE MAINTENANCE AND IMPROVEMENT ACCOUNT TO FIVE PERCENT (5%) IN ORDER TO ENSURE ADEQUATE ANNUAL FUNDING FOR ROUTINE MAINTENANCE, REPAIR AND REPLACEMENT OF PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.