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Berg presents proposed 2013 budget
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Carly Sharec

csharec@dawsonadvertiser.com

The recommended county budget for 2013 is set at $20.91 million, a 0.3 percent increase over the 2012 budget.

The proposed numbers were presented to the board of commissioners by Chairman Mike Berg at the Aug. 9 work session. For the 2013 budget, Berg recommended using $675,000 of the fund balance.

The projected unassigned fund balance for the end of 2013 is $3,820,290, or 18.27 percent of total budgeted expenditures. According to Berg, this is within the recommended 15 to 20 percent.

The 2012 budget is $20,902,956, more than an $8,000 difference from the proposed $20,911,243 for 2013.

This year, Berg declared himself an equal opportunity offender in laying out the budget, with no department safe from scrutiny. Berg said four big factors in setting the budget are declining property tax revenue, rising fuel costs, rising health insurance costs and rising electricity costs. He referred to the new Government Center, saying that with the new building, new surroundings ... were budgeting the best we can for that, but we know utilities will go up.

Berg also blamed unfunded state mandates for some of the increases, including longevity increases in some taxpayer-funded positions. However, county employees are not receiving cost-of-living raises in 2013 for what will be five years in a row.

We are state-mandated to give longevity increases of 4 or 5 percent to all constitutional officers and county commissioners, Berg said. We dont really have a say in that.

The longevity increase is calculated by multiplying the number of four-year terms an elected official has completed with .05 to determine the percentage of the increase. For example, a base salary of $49,721.70, with two completed terms requiring a 10 percent increase, would see $4,972.17 added to the final salary.

The final figure is also multiplied by 1.0289 for a 2007 mandated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and 1.0300 for a 2008 cost-of-living adjustment. There was no COLA in 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012.

Dena Bosten, accounting and budget manager for the county, said the raises of all elected officials totaled to approximately $25,000 in the budget for 2013.

Its not actually so much a cost-of-living raise, as it is something that the state gives to elected officials for serving so many years, said Cindy Campbell, chief financial officer for the county.

Other unfunded state mandates included training for the probate judge, four property tax exemptions for citizens over 65 and the loss of the K-9 operating grant revenue.

There were some additions to the budget, including $75,000 to partially restore funding to the Development Authority, which was not funded by the county in the 2012 budget. We suggested to let them take that money out of their funds, Berg reminded the board. I am suggesting $75,000 in restorative monies, if you will, which is less than what they asked for.

The authority initially asked for $108,910 for 2013. Over $150,000 was budgeted for the department in 2011.

Additional increases in the budget also include:

An extra $6,000 for the Dawson County Humane Society. The 2012 budget was set at $120,000, with the organization requesting $132,000 for 2013. Berg recommended $126,000 for the 2013 budget. The extra $6,000 is only for 2013 to assist in paying for the new facilities, Berg said.

$5,123 to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

Also included in the proposed budget is funding for four new vehicles for the Sheriffs

Department, and a new ambulance for Emergency Services. Dawson now has five ambulances, with one used for back-up and four in regular use. The newest one is a 2007 model; another one dates back to 1999. Berg told the commissioners that an ambulance is approximately $150,000, but he believes the county will be able to receive a matching grant, bringing the countys portion of the cost down to $75,000. Of that $75,000, he said, Im recommending $50,000 come from impact fees, and the additional $25,000 would come from grant transfers.

There were also a couple of part-time positions added: one to the Emergency Services department and one to Human Resources.

The biggest decreases in the budget are for the Chamber of Commerce and the Health Department. Also budgeted are:

A reduction of $16,500 to the Chamber of Commerce for the hotel/motel tax.

A reduction of $15,000 to the Health Department, which is due to the department having received a grant to make up for those funds.

District Two Commissioner James Swafford asked if any cushion had been built into the budget until negotiations over the Local Option Sales Tax are complete with the City of Dawsonville.

The budget is built on what we have now, Berg said. You gotta go on todays numbers, not tomorrows.

Tax collection rates, though, were raised to an expected 98 percent rather than the typically-budgeted 95 percent. For the last few years, the tax commissioner has collected 98 to 99 percent, Berg said. We need to take advantage of that. Berg explained how this way, the departments can make purchases beforehand with the anticipated money rather than waiting until the end of the year.

Two public hearings will be held on the proposed budget, one set for Aug. 16 at the commission meeting, and one for the Sept. 6 meeting. If the commissioners choose, they may vote on the 2013 budget at that time. Residents may go online to view the budget at dawsoncounty.org, under Finance Department under the Departments link at the top of the web page.

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