More new personnel than the county has seen in a long time could be approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners when they set the 2019 budget later this year, according to a presentation by Chairman Billy Thurmond last week.
Thurmond presented his recommended 2019 budget to the rest of the board on Sept. 27, and recommended the board approve 23 of the 42 positions that department heads requested during budget hearings in August. An additional position has already been granted in the form of an administrative assistant for the public defender’s office.
Department heads requested $2.4 million in new positions and salary changes; Thurmond has proposed $932,632 in expenses in the form of 19 full time and four part time positions.
“For many departments, the new personnel that is being proposed in this budget will meet the demands of not only today but for several years to come,” Thurmond said to the board. “You will no longer see them come every year asking you for the same thing over and over and over and over again. This budget will eliminate some of that.”
The four part time positions are for a deputy coroner, a part time judge and a weekend judge for the Magistrate Court and a clerk for the Probate Court. The deputy coroner position has already been approved by the commission for the remainder of this year.
Of the 19 full time positions, 18 are new and one is a promotion. Included in the new positions recommended is a legal assistant for the county attorney, a training captain for emergency services, an administrative assistant for fleet maintenance, a human resources specialist, an IT coordinator, two park maintenance employees, a building inspector for planning and development, an assistant public defender, three public works positions, a respite coordinator/custodian for the new senior center, two patrol officers for the sheriff’s office and two operators at the transfer station.
Thurmond said he hopes that in addition to the new positions, the county will be able to work with the public safety departments to fill open positions and keep them filled.
“This budget doesn’t meet all of the issues that we have. We still have issues in public safety, we still have difficulty keeping our staff in public safety,” Thurmond said. “We’re being challenged by most of the services south of us so we’re going to have to continue to take a look at that.”
Thurmond also included a two percent raise for all employees next year as well as an additional $100,000 to cover any potential increased insurance costs.
Changes made to the 2018 budget throughout the year resulted in an amended $26,417,480 general fund budget for this year. The budget Thurmond proposed for 2019 comes in at $27,130,089, a $700,000 increase.
“Finance and I went line by line, department by department, and found money that could be reappropriated for better use,” Thurmond said of the budgeting process. “The proposal does not put any strain on maintaining a solid reserve fund.”
That also is due in large part to increases in LOST collections and property taxes that the county is anticipating. Projections are for LOST to increase 10 percent, an increase of over $1.1 million from 2018, and the combination of maintaining the millage rate and a county-wide revaluation of all residential properties will result in a $1 million increase in property taxes over last year.
Department heads also requested $7.8 million in capital projects funding, which is separate from the general fund. Much of their requests will not be granted but could become future SPLOST items.
Thurmond has proposed moving $100,000 from the capital projects fund to the separate vehicle replacement fund. He also proposed allocating $100,000 for audio visual replacements in the courthouse, $10,000 for cameras for the Tax Commissioner’s Office, $100,000 for paving the parking lot at the KH Long building, $31,071 to activate emergency call buttons for the sheriff’s office radios and $50,000 for new AC units for the sheriff’s office.
Thurmond also proposed the county utilize monies from the capital projects fund that don’t get used in 2018 for those expenses.
Also separate from the general fund, the SPLOST VI budget for 2019 is $7,500,000, and is already earmarked for a new public works facility, a new fire station in the west side of the county, road paving and phase two of county-wide computer replacements.
“We’ve got to plan as we go forward to replace these computers on a five-year (basis)...we’ve got to get this stuff in SPLOST where it's not in the general fund and we’re not having to try to find money for these type projects,” Thurmond said. “We’ve got to keep that kind of stuff in SPLOST.”
Public hearings for the proposed budget are scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 4, 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in the second floor assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center.
The commission could vote to approve a budget at the Oct. 18 meeting.
“What I will propose to you is this: that before every hearing, we will have a conversation about any proposed changes or additions that you would like to make, that way whoever may come to that hearing will have the opportunity to speak to that as well,” Thurmond said to the board.
In other business:
City, county to hold joint planning meeting
Representatives from the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and the Dawsonville City Council will be meeting at Amicalola Falls Friday for a joint planning retreat.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 5.
The Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge is located at 418 Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville. The meeting will be open to the public.