I. Welcome & Introductions
Jim King called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the April meetings were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be admitted to BCN.
IV. Analysis of APS Budget by Jarod Apperson, CPA
Jarod Apperson is a forensic accountant who has taken an interest in the budgets of the Atlanta Public School system as contrasted with other metro systems. Jarod’s presentation was based on two data sources: the “Open Georgia” web site (www.open.georgia.gov) and the APS 2012-13 budget. In the initial portions of his presentation, Jarod discussed APS’ sources of revenue and how those funds are spent differently between charters and conventional schools. Jarod compared per student expenditures for metro school systems and spending by category. APS only spends 33% on teachers’ salaries while Metro spends 43%. But since APS’ per student spending is so much larger, actual per student spending on teachers is about the same. In spending categories where APS spending exceeds metro norms (outside vendors and central office), the actual dollars spent per student in those categories is far greater than in comparable metro systems. In summary, APS spending is disproportionately for things other than teachers. Jarod had several criticisms of the overall budget process. First all of the attention is placed on the General Fund, even though it represents only 65% of the total budget. Second, he believes the budgets are developed and analyzed far too late in the cycle – he thinks they should be available much earlier. He argues that real tradeoffs should be made to consider the costs and benefits of categories such as class size, technology, central office and facilities. He urges us to contact Superintendent Davis and the members of the Board of Education. See the email addresses on the last page of the presentation slides, which are available here. Jarod has also made a version of the same presentation made to BCN on YouTube. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP66iltBQ8I (17:13). If you missed the BCN meeting, take the time to listen to this informative presentation. Since the slides are not always readable of the video, consider glancing at his BCN slides (link above) while listening to the video.
V. Proposed Alarm Ordinance Explanation by Hans Utz, Deputy COO – Atlanta
Hans Utz is the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the City of Atlanta and is directly responsible for assembling the mayor’s budget. His presentation tonight is about proposed changes in the Alarm Ordinance. He said last year APD responded to about 65,000 alarm calls that were deemed to be false alarms. 80% of them came from locations with multiple alarms during the year and 40% came from locations with six or more alarms during the year. An alarm call takes about 20 minutes of a police officer’s time. 65,000 alarms equates to about 12 full time equivalent officers. But they don’t want to disincentivize responsible alarm use and they want to continue responding to all alarms. There is already a false alarm ordinance. Under that ordinance, tickets are written for each of the 65,000 annual false alarms. He said that number of tickets is “unprocessable hunk of paperwork” for the courts. People attempting to pay at the court often find there is no record of the violation at the court. On the other hand, the police tell them that they will be penalized f they pay late. The proposed changes to the ordinance are as follows. The changes are not being made to generate revenue but will hopefully reduce APD costs and eliminate confusion.
They will reduce the fines for false alarms. Compared to other municipalities, Atlanta’s penalties are too severe (from $50 for the first false alarm up to $1,000 for the seventh false alarm in a
year). Under the new ordinance, there would be no fine for the first false alarm. The $50 fine for the second false alarm (in a year) would be waived if the offender takes a course in responsible
alarm use. After that, fines are similar to the existing schedule.
Vendors are available to handle alarm paperwork and collections but not enforcement. Visits to the alarm site will be one by APD and APD will be the sole decider as to whether the alarm was
false. Unlike Park Atlanta, there is no “poison pill” and the contract with the vendor can be easily terminated. The vendor being considered is “Cry Wolf” which is used by other metro
The state prohibits municipalities from regulating alarm companies. If there were not that constraint, the city would ask the alarm companies to identify the locations of false alarms and
the identity of the responsible parties. Accordingly, the city will require alarm owners to register their alarm systems with Cry Wolf. Without registration, Hans said, “we have no idea where
these alarms are.” Other municipalities have required alarm owners to pay registration fees but Atlanta decided against imposing such fees. Unregistered alarms which have a false alarm will
have to pay an additional penalty fee. The registering and fee changes will begin at a point in time and take four months will elapse before tickets are issued; fees for not registering will begin
after six months – nothing will be retroactive.
Concern was raised that a private firm would have sensitive information about citizen’s alarm systems.
Since APD responds to the location of the 911 call, there shouldn’t be a mystery about where the alarm is. Hans responded that people move and that alarm ownership often changes during the
year. The data needed is already available but basically, a vendor is needed to do the bookkeeping. The vendor’s reward will be 20% of the fines collected.
Is the vendor required to return the databases if the contract is terminated? Yes, but Hans will check the details of what exactly happens.
Why not trigger the registration requirement on the first false alarm rather than making everyone register? After much discussion the city basically decided to make every system owner register.
Will Cry Wolf coordinate with the courts? Hans said the process is being changed and the courts will not be involved at all unless the alarm owner wants to appeal a false alarm fee. Cry Wolf will
handle collections (on-line, by mail, collection agencies, etc.)
If Cry Wolf mishandles or loses the registration database (to burglars) are there penalties? Yes, contract termination. Are monetary penalties being considered? Hans didn’t know and will follow
up. Must the database be encrypted? Yes.
What is the breakdown of the 65,000 alarms by police zone? (Commercial and residential are both included.)
If an alarm is responded to by a private neighborhood security patrol officer, is it an official ”false alarm”? Hans said if the security patrol (or the monitoring service) cancels the on-duty officer’s
arrival, no false alarm ticket will be issued.
Will Cry Wolf provide education? Yes, there will be on-line training.
How much of a reduction in false alarms is expected from Cry Wolf’s services? A 30% reduction is expected for the first year and 55% to 60% is expected thereafter.
VI. Committee and Liaison Updates
Did not meet. No report.
Gordon Certain reported that Cultural Affairs was being split from the Parks Department and reassigned to the Mayor’s Office. The Parks Strategic Plan was endorsed by the
attendees of the Parks Commissioners Quarterly Meeting. A 10% budget cut is being imposed on the remainder of the Parks Department. Staffing and services will continue at current levels with
the funding shortfall being met by drawing down non-critical trust funds. Hans Utz commented that reduced spending is planned for utilities based on actual efficiencies. He assured attendees
that there would be absolutely no reduction in services.
Carjackings were briefly discussed by Jim King.
Transportation, Development and Infrastructure
Jim King and Gordon Certain commented on the Sandy Springs Gateway project. John Schaffner commented that the Northside Drive road work had been rescheduled to October, as BCN neighborhoods originally wanted.
VII. Old / New Business
Bylaws Change Email Voting (Updated 6/12/13) Voting is being done on paper ballots. The bylaws ballot is available at EmailForm. 16 BCN member neighborhoods have voted
to approve. A 2/3 majority of our current 25 member neighborhood is 17 neighborhoods. Just one more vote is needed. The following BCN member neighborhoods have not voted:
– Channing Valley
– Grant Estates
– Collier Hills North
– Loring Heights
– Margaret Mitchell
– Pine Hills
– Tuxedo Park
XIII. Community Concerns
X. Next Meeting – June 13, 2013
XI. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:20 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.