City Council approves budget, adds $117-million surplus - CBS46 News

City Council approves budget, adds $117-million surplus, more cops, higher parking fines

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Atlanta will soon have more police officers walking the streets, higher penalties for parking violations and a $117 million surplus at a time when many cities and counties around metro Atlanta face budget gaps.

The city council early Monday evening approved a $540 million budget.

The plan will allow the police department to hire 41 new officers, raising the total number of officers to 2,000, the largest force in city history.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner was gratified to hear the news.

"I am grateful," Turner said. "The more officers we have, the more secure our people are."

Michael Julian Bond, who chairs the council's public safety committee, said a bigger force means more officers can get out of their cars and into the communities they patrol.

"It's tremendously beneficial. Having that visibility in and of itself will be a deterrent to crime. So we expect Atlanta's going to be a safer city," Bond said.

The budget includes a measure to increase parking fines from the current $25 to $35. The fine rises to $95 for violators who do not pay within 45 days.

Supporters believe the move would close a $4 million shortfall in its contract with Park Atlanta, the company the city pays to write parking tickets.

Councilman C.T. Martin, however, is not convinced the plan will generate enough money.

"This will help a little bit but it doesn't really solve the problem."

Animal rights activists wanted attached legislation to the budget to include a ban on bullhooks, which are tools used to control elephants in the circus. Activists did not get the exact wording they wanted. The council amended its animal control laws to ban all instruments used to abuse elephants.

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