A Rewrite of the Tree Trust Fund Ordinance

The Tree Next Door has submitted their rewrite of the Tree Trust Fund section of the City's proposed new tree ordinance to the Atlanta City Council Community Development and Human Services Committee.  Our rewrite remains true to the core principles of the Tree Trust Fund. It recognizes legitimate competing demands for Tree Trust Fund resources, and  -- most importantly -- implements safeguards consistent with the conclusions and recommendations of the City's Tree Trust Fund Performance Audit (October, 2020).

Our proposed Tree Trust Fund Section:

  1. Focuses on tree planting, forest purchases, tree education, and resources for low-income homeowners. It provides institutional support for these goals.

  2. Reduces allocations for personnel unrelated to these goals while adding an administrator for budget preparation, creation of the Urban Tree Master Plan and oversight of the Tree Conservation Commission (TCC).

  3. Empowers the TCC to review budgets, tree planting plans and purchases of forested property. (The TCC is the only City commission with both the geographical and professional representation necessary for these tasks.)

  4. Creates procedures to improve data tracking and reporting of Tree Trust Fund revenues to ensure transparency and accountability as recommended by the City's Performance Audit.

  5. Responds to future climate challenges by implementing a science-based Urban Tree Master Plan. This plan is also needed to address unequal spending across city quadrants, city parks and other public spaces.

This proposal is necessary because the City Draft violates both the spirt and the letter of the City Audit findings. It specifically:

  1. Increases annual expenditures from $50,000 to $100,000, but sets no percentages or dollar amounts for tree planting or forest purchases.

  2. Reduces the role of the Tree Conservation Commission.

  3. Makes financial reporting even less transparent while reducing all other reporting to a single annual report.

  4. Does not specify which positions in either the Planning or Parks Departments are to be funded by the TTF.

  5. Places decision making in the sole hands of the Commissioner of Planning.

  6. Drastically dilutes the purpose of the TTF by expanding funding for broad projects initiated by other departments.

  7. Fails to provide meaningful guidance for the creation and implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan.

Given that our investigation into prior mismanagement of the Tree Trust Fund resulted in an internal City Audit documenting $3 million in diverted funds and $2.1 million in uncollected fines, our rewrite of the Tree Trust Fund Section will provide the transparency and accountability that the Tree Trust Fund has been sorely lacking. 

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