Project cost overruns frustrate Alpharetta city council members - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

Project cost overruns frustrate Alpharetta city council members

On a more positive note, city expects tax digest to rise in double-digits


ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Even with the prospect of a healthy tax digest, Alpharetta officials are sorting through the proposed 2018 budget for ways to fund projects facing cost overruns or bids higher than expected.

The City Council learned Monday night that its new arts center, approved for funding by voters in the May 2016 bond referendum, has a $543,000 shortfall of funding based on the latest estimates.

And that’s not all.

Within the past two months, the city has learned that two parking decks proposed for the west side of Main Street, are also going to cost more than originally expected. A running total comes to close to $3 million in estimated shortfalls for the projects, due in large part to rising labor costs as the Atlanta area experiences a building boom.

Studies prepared for both parking deck structures put the original price tag at $6.6 million for both. But early estimates garnered from bids show it may take more than $8 million or $9 million to build both structures.

The arts center, which consists of converting the old Fulton County Library into a community cultural showpiece, was last estimated to cost $2.6 million. But the latest estimates now have the cost at $3.1 million, and that’s pretty much bare bones, said Alpharetta Parks Director Morgan Rodgers.

The projected cost overruns did not escape Councilman Chris Owens, who presided over Monday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor David Belle Isle.

Owens said the growing cost of labor in the region is the main reason bids are coming in higher than anticipated.

”Labor is one of the biggest factors,” he said. “Atlanta is a tight labor market for skilled workers.”

Right now the city’s Finance Department is studying the bids to make sure all contractors are bidding the same work and that nothing has been added or deleted, Owens said. Even after that process is completed it is likely the costs will exceed original estimates, he added.

At the same time city leaders were sorting through project funding shortfalls, council members got some good news.

Finance Director Tom Harris reported that unofficial estimates from the Fulton County Assessor’s Office show property values have climbed 11 percent from last year’s figures. The city had anticipated a 4 percent increase in its tax digest, helped in part by new construction.

The larger-than-expected increase comes in the wake of the county’s effort over the past year to update property values, a process that has not occurred for some time.

Overall, property values in Fulton County have grown 13 percent in the past year, primarily because of the revaluation process [See article, Page 14].

Harris stressed that the 11 percent growth is a preliminary estimate and the city should wait until an official digest is released by the Fulton County Tax Commissioner before basing a budget on that figure. However, if the 11 percent estimate is correct, Alpharetta would receive an additional $1.2 million in revenue based on the current property tax rate of 5.75 mills, Harris said.

The City Council has yet to vote on a property tax rate – or mill levy – to fund its 2018 spending plan.

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