After months of planning and discussion by city stakeholders, Dawsonville officials approved a budget for the upcoming financial year, including spending cuts of 14%, as was recommended by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year.
At the Dawsonville City Council meeting held on Monday, June 15, council members unanimously approved the $5.8 million budget.
Prior to the board’s vote on the budget, Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason announced that in the month since the budget was last brought before council members, cuts to city spending for 2020-21 had been deepened from 12% to 14%, under the guidance of council members Mark French and Caleb Phillips.
"The Governor, as you know, has recommended a 14% cut, we were originally at 12%,” Eason said. “I think Mr. French with a little bit of help from Mr. Phillips had brought us down to a 14% cut without anybody squealing.”
Though statewide budget cuts were expected to be at least 14% for 2021, in June Kemp revised the estimated cuts to 11%.
“I think staff did a good job, but I think a little oversight of the budget is always necessary," Eason added.
According to Eason, this is the first time in recent memory that council members have assisted so much in the budgeting process, and together city staff and council members were able to go through the proposed budget line by line, cutting from what was spent in 2019.
In mid-May, the city council announced that the 2020-21 budget was expected to decrease more than $1 million from what was budgeted for the 2019-20 financial year due to revenues that were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dawsonville Finance Administrator Hayden Wiggins previously said that those cuts would mean a significant reduction to the number of projects completed by the city in the upcoming year.
Steps made on GDOT Perimeter Road extension project
During the meeting, council members also approved Eason’s signing of a letter of support for the Georgia Department of Transportation’s proposed route for the Perimeter Road Extension project, which will connect Hwy. 9 and Hwy. 53 at some point in the future.
According to Eason, the letter of support would also require Dawsonville to take on the full cost of a lighting project for certain areas of the route during the preliminary design phase of the road project.
“Which means that we have to have the power turned on and we have to pay the power bill," Eason said.
The Perimeter Road Extension project will involve three roundabouts and approximately 2 miles of roadway, diverting heavy trucks and through traffic away from downtown Dawsonville.
Eason said that even though the project is not expected to begin for several years, it’s completion is vital to the continued beautification and economic growth of Dawsonville.
"This is not something that's going to happen any time soon, could be six or eight years, but the bypass is very, very important to the City of Dawsonville,” he said. "Those that have not sat down on the side of the street out here and counted 18-wheelers, sometimes it's 100 per hour that come through our city during the day.”
Eason believes the project will help draw businesses and people to the city.
“That's what we really need to try and make our city more viable as a destination community, somewhere that shops can locate, restaurants can locate, people can park and walk across the street without the fear of getting run over," he said.
Council members unanimously approved the letter of support.