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Atlanta auditors flag administrative spending in road, bridge and sidewalk works program

Maggie Lee
These potholes on Early Street, in Buckhead, illustrate the extent of the pothole problem if repairs weren't made. This area is near a construction zone. Credit: David Pendered These potholes on Early Street, in Buckhead, illustrate the extent of the pothole problem if repairs weren't made. This area is near a construction zone. Credit: David Pendered

By Maggie Lee

The city of Atlanta has already cut expectations from its marquee plans to spend hundreds of millions on Atlanta’s crumbling infrastructure. Now city auditors say even the new, more modest target may be hard to meet.

“Renew Atlanta is on track to overspend its administrative budget, which could harm its ability to deliver the re-baselined projects,” reads part of a new report from city of Atlanta auditors.

The report is one of a series of regular reviews of Renew Atlanta and its sister TSPLOST program. Between the two, which started in 2015 and 2016, Atlantans were promised road, sidewalk, bridge and other works that it turns out would cost about $940 million. The problem is, the two programs only will have about $530 million to spend.

Renew has about $16 million left for administration, according to auditors, and administration has cost on average about $1.1 million per month, according to the report. However, the program has 39 more months to run.

Auditors recommended that Renew Atlanta review administrative costs to identify areas of potential cost savings and/or adjustments to the budget.

And Renew agreed.

An analysis of overhead costs will be done as Renew Atlanta and its sister TSPLOST program transition to the new Atlanta Department of Transportation, according to Renew’s comments on the audit.

The city’s unified Department of Transportation was set up last year in part as an answer to inefficiencies and lack of coordination among the several city departments that used to oversee different bits of transportation infrastructure.

The city of Atlanta did not immediately make anyone available to comment on the audit. The city’s auditor will present her report to Council in the coming weeks.

Renew Atlanta was a $250 million bond sale approved by voters in 2015. The TSPLOST is a 0.4-cent sales tax approved in 2016 that will be worth $260 million over five years. The city also counted on some $20 million in other funds for the kinds of road, bridge and sidewalk works that the programs are funding. So Atlanta would have $530 million to spend.

But by 2018, it turned out promised projects would cost some $940 million.

City administration said the gap was due largely to rising construction costs, expanded project scopes, and a lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenue projection compared to the original TSPLOST program estimate.

Documents:

Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST August 2020 report

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Maggie Lee
Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Robert September 11, 2020 9:55 am

    A key component of the inflated Administrative Costs: “Lee Joshua Williams in 2018 was employed in City Of Atlanta and had annual salary of $200,000. This salary is 260 percent higher than average and 297 percent higher than median salary in City Of Atlanta”Report

    Reply
    1. Avatar
      Atlgal September 11, 2020 11:20 am

      Josh’s salary doesn’t bother me. Pay competent people. But DUMP incompetent people – and that is our problem right now.Report

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Atlgal September 11, 2020 11:18 am

    HA HA HA HA “City administration said the gap was due largely to rising construction costs, expanded project scopes, and a lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenue projection compared to the original TSPLOST program estimate.”
    WRONG: most cost overrun was as a result of Reed Administration’s pet projects – like the worm bridge across Northside Drive.Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Seriously? September 11, 2020 1:50 pm

    If the city of Atlanta can’t get its act together on this, it will find that future TSPLOSTs are denied by the voting public. We’re tired of being hoodwinked (intentionally or unintentionally).

    Stop over-promising and under-delivering.

    I get costs increase, but any development project should anticipate cost increases. Maybe NPUs should be given tax and budget authority instead if the city can run things….Report

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Steve Williams September 17, 2020 8:27 am

    Much the problem of potholes comes from construction and businesses using large trucks for delivery. Is there any responsibility from them. Especially the contractors?Report

    Reply

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