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Commission holds first of two budget hearings
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The Dawson County Board of Commissioners held the first of two public hearings last week on the proposed 2017 county budget.

During the hearing, District Attorney Lee Darragh asked for an additional $14,520 from the county so that his office could hire a staff member with funding from VOCA, or the Victims of Crime Act, for the county.

Darragh said that the money would be part of a local matching grant from the federal government, which would give the county $58,080 to go towards hiring the new employee so long as the county supplied the additional amount. The money will include salary and benefits for the new hire.

Also during the hearing, Leslie Kupkowski, a member of the Friends of the Library in Dawson County, petitioned the commission for more funding for the local library.

"What the library is asking for in our budget proposal isn't exorbitant, it's a bare minimum to maintain our current levels of service and to expand where expansion is sorely needed," Kupkowski said. "The library is a vital resource in our community, used by people of all ages and from all walks of life."

Commission Chair Mike Berg, who created and presented the budget, said the library is different from other county departments because they are given money in a bulk amount, not by salary base.

"They do what they want with it- spend it on salaries, new books or materials, however they want to spend it," Berg said. "The library is like everyone else in this: No one is really happy and everyone always wants more, but we have to make sure we balance what we have. The proposed budget gives the library $7,000 more than we gave them last year."

The $36.4 million budget includes raises, new vehicles and capital improvement projects that have been requested by various boards and departments within the county.

Due to capital needs and personnel requests, the proposed 2017 budget is an increase of $1.9 million over last year's budget.

Berg said he has one recommendation he hopes the commission takes seriously.

The Tax Assessor's office has requested a total county re-evaluation of property values, as over the last 10 years only one-third of the properties has been evaluated each year. The cost is estimated to be around $550,000.

Though not part of the 2017 budget, Berg suggested the commission use the $600,000 they should be receiving early next year from GEMA, the Georgia Emergency Management Association, to pay for the re-evaluation.

Berg is the budget officer, which means that it is his job to draft and present the budget each year to the county for approval. In most counties, the commission chair is not the budget officer, but Berg said the unique way that Dawson County handles the budget allows for a more personal and hands-on process.

"It's a good process because I'm face to face with outside entities and with every department, and I hear each and every one of their concerns," Berg said. "It's a great education for me and a great way for me to learn about the needs of the county."

Two public hearings are required before the commission can adopt the budget. The second hearing will be held on Nov. 10 at a special called meeting during the commission's regular work session, which begins at 4 p.m.

The hearing is open to the public and will be held in the assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way in Dawsonville.

The commission can vote at that time to approve the budget with any amendments they have made. It's likely that any changes would be zero-based since the commission voted to keep the millage rate the same.