DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody City Council gave early approval Oct. 12 to a proposed 2021 budget that calls for keeping the property tax rate steady, but draws deeply into reserves to maintain services.

The $24 million budget reflects a 4.2 percent reduction to various department spending.

Even with those reductions, the reserve fund city keeps on hand is projected to shrink from funding almost eight months of operation to four months.by the end of 2021. The draw-down in reserves is being attributed to anticipated drops in sales tax and hotel/motel tax collections, fewer fees from licenses and permits and fines and forfeitures.

in reserve in 2020 to a projected four month’s reserve by the end of 2021. The reductions in income can be attributed to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, which has reduced several funding sources, including taxes, licenses and permits and fines and forfeitures.

“We will have no millage rate increase, but we hope that the economy turns around real soon,” said Dunwoody Finance Director Linda Nabers.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she was upset that several projects had to be put on hold in order to hold the millage rate steady, but expressed hope that the economy would improve enough in 2021 to make mid-year adjustments.

“This is not a budget with much fat, and I am hoping that the economy comes back soon,” she said.

The budget calls for spending cuts of 12 percent in the Parks Department, 15 percent in Community Development, almost 9 percent from the Police Department, and 30 percent reduced from the Communications Department.

The entire panel complimented the city’s finance department for its work in presenting a comprehensive budget explanation, and particularly lauded the budget committee, which included Pam Tallmadge, Tom Lambert and Jim Riticher.

There will be one more public hearing at the council’s next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 26, after which the council will consider the budget for first reading.

The council also held a public hearing on a controversial proposal to take three properties located on Roberts Road and rezone them from R-100 to R-50 to allow for the construction of a 15-home “farmhouse-themed” community.

Ty White, founder and CEO of Peachland Homes, presented the vision for the new homes, calling them ideal for “empty nesters.” The community, called “The Cottages,” would feature 1.5-story homes with most of the living space, including the master bedrooms, on the main floor.

White said plans include saving the Swancy Farmhouse, a historic property located on the proposed site. The architecture of the proposed homes would mirror the “farmhouse theme” of the Swancy Farmhouse.

However, several property owners from the Dunwoody Knoll subdivision, which abuts the proposed subdivision, said they have concerns about the proposal, citing potential stormwater runoff, the density of the project and landscape buffers.

During a long conversation with White, council members urged the developer to continue to have discussions with Dunwoody Knoll residents until they are satisfied that the proposed subdivision will not harm their land or property values.

In other business Oct. 12, Dunwoody resident Robert Wilson called for the resignation of Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, whose tenure has been tainted by allegations disclosed this year of sexual misconduct by one of the departmetn’s veteran officers.

“It’s only after long, hard and agonizing thought that I make this request for Chief Grogan to resign,” Walker said. “It’s a sad day when the chief of police has to lawyer up.”

Walker referenced a move by the City Council to engage outside council to handle several lawsuits brought as a result of the alleged actions of Lt. Fidel Espinoza, who had been accused of sending lewd text messages and pictures to junior officers and denying them promotions and extra work if they did not reciprocate.

The council made no comment on Walker’s statement, however, later in the meeting, council members voted, without discussion, to retain the law firm of Eberlee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson to defend the city against lawsuits filed by former police officers Austin Handle and Brian Castellanos.

The council also:

• Heard from Dunwoody Economic Development Director Michael Starling about grant applications in process that will assist small business owners who have suffered economically from COVID-19.

• Was given an update by Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton on various construction projects around the city, including preparations in anticipation of the demolition of the old Austin Elementary school.

The council retired to executive session after the nearly five-hour marathon and adjourned an hour later without taking action.

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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