Recap: Week two of Atlanta City Council\’s budget hearings

In which we learned the local International Association of Fire Fighters doesn’t have collective bargaining

ATLANTA — Atlanta City Council entered its second week of budget hearings on Monday, May 17th for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). This week included reports from various unions who weigh in on how the proposed department budget aligns with the needs expressed by the workers they represent. The union representatives also use this time to present questions of their own for city council to address.

On Fri., May 20th, the city council heard from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and the Internal Commissioner of Human Resources (HR). For reference, collective bargaining with the IAFF is prohibited in Atlanta. Georgia law (GA title 25-5-4) specifically gives Fire & Rescue the right to collectively bargain; however, the only municipalities in Georgia that currently have collective bargaining are Savannah and the city of South Fulton. This requires an ordinance to enact here in Atlanta, which the IAFF is hoping to discuss with the mayor. 

Members of city council present include Jennifer Ide (District 6) serving as chair, Felicia Moore (City Council President), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Howard Shook (District 7), Dustin Hillis (District 9), Andrea L. Boone (District 10), Marci Collier Overstreet (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), and Andre Dickens (post 3 At-Large).

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According to IAFF local 134 president, Paul Gerdis, even though Fire & Rescue is the only public department to specifically be granted a right to collective bargaining by Georgia law, they do not yet have it here in Atlanta.

International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO)

President of IBPO local 63 Lt. Kevin Knapp gave an oral presentation without written material. Readers may recognize Knapp from a viral copaganda video from a Black Lives Matter protest for George Floyd that gathered in Centennial Olympic Park on May 31, 2020.

During Friday’s presentation, Knapp had two concerns for the proposed FY22 budget. The first concern was for the approved pay rate adjustment for officers ranked sergeant and above. According to Knapp, there were rumors that the first FY22 check, to be issued on July 1, would not include the raise. Chief Financial Officer Roosevelt Council of the Mayor\’s Office replied that he had not heard this rumor, confirming that there is money budgeted for the pay increase, but was hesitant to give a definitive answer. While waiting to receive clarity on this concern, Ide stated, “I don\’t know why we would delay if the money is there.” This rumor was finally dispelled by Jeffrey Norman, interim commissioner for the Department of HR. 

Knapp’s second concern focused on the budget allotment for police vehicles, stating the current fleet is “in dire straits.” He went on to argue that now is an excellent time for a rehaul to bring the fleet up to “where it needs to be” given the department’s lack of manpower. The current budget proposes $2.1M to enhance the police fleet. Sheperd remarked on on the fleet, “My god, is this the best we can do?” and that, in her opinion, some of the cars “look pretty beat up and bad. Ide and Sheperd told Knapp they plan to follow through with looking into the fleet budget allotment in the next Public Safety and Legal Administration meeting. Council members present were also notified that the IBPO is in the beginning stages of conducting an internal study for the current Atlanta Police Department (APD) pension structure.

International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) 

President of IAFF local 134 Paul Gerdis presented on behalf of the fire fighters union. Gerdis highlighted FY22 budget shortfalls, some of which include lack of funding for station repairs, remodels, and new stations as well as inadequate fleet expansion. He also addressed personnel concerns; there were no new hires in 2020 through YTD 2021 due in large part to subpar benefits, he argued. According to Gerdis, if IAFF had collective bargaining for the past 10 years, he\’d be “highly confident they would be much further ahead with the same amount of money or less, and that the full new fire stations in Southwest Atlanta and Peachtree Battle would already have been built. Gerdis reminded city council members that the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department (AFRD) will always be first on scene in an emergency and is the sole operations rescue for hazmat, trench, building collapse, rope rescue swiftwater, and motor vehicle extrication response in the City of Atlanta.

Personnel Paper

Interim Commissioner of HR Jeffrey Norman provided the personnel paper report. The FY22 budgeted full time equivalent (FTE) for APD is 2,695 while ARFD is 1,184. Norman pointed out the gratuity clause in the Georgia constitution states no bonus may be awarded for merely satisfactorily performing duties; however, this payment does not constitute a gift if the city receives a “substantial benefit” in return. Ide asked how this would apply to retention bonuses. Norman replied that it would be a broader conversation for city council. Norman informed council members that APD has drafted a sick leave policy to try and address some of the instances of sick leave abuse”. The HR department met with IBPO’s attorney to discuss the policy. Norman expounded that police chief Rodney Bryant “thinks there’s a better way to address sick leave policies.\’\’ The policy will be implemented once the review is done.

We will continue to report on the FY2022 budget as it moves through city council.

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 to stay connected.

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