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Commissioners considering proposed 2016 spending plan
$22.9 million budget calls for part time judge, two more new positions
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Citizens have the chance to make comments on the county's proposed spending plan for 2016 during Thursday's meeting of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

The public hearing on the proposed $22 million budget, up nearly $430,000 in 2015, will be held at 6 p.m. in the assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center.

Commissioners are currently reviewing the proposed budget and can make suggestions, though it's likely any changes would be zero-based since they voted in July to keep the millage the same at 8.138 mills.

"This budget matches the millage rate. We set the millage first...and then we match the budget to that. We don't ask for more money. We try to live within our means," said Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg.

A vote by the county commission to adopt the budget could follow the public hearing.

Commissioners will also have the option to consider tabling the proposal until its next voting session, according to Berg, who presented the plan to his fellow board members on Sept. 24.

In addition to a new part time Magistrate judge position that will assist in the court's caseload, the plan calls for adding a new position in facilities and another in parks and recreation.

There's also a recommendation to set aside $40,000 that would be used as transitional funding in the event that the new sheriff, who will be elected in 2016, is not a current sheriff's office employee.

Other recommendations include 11 self-contained breathing apparatus ($57,830) and a thermal camera ($6,700) for the fire department, funds for a Ga. 400 corridor study ($14,000) and county visioning plan ($5,000), a John Deere Gator for the park system ($10,000), software updates in the clerk of courts office ($9,000) and a remodel at the library's eastside satellite location ($6,500).

Capital improvements would be primarily funded as 1-cent sales tax revenues are generated, Berg said.

As in years past, salaries and benefits represent the county's greatest expense at $14.1 million, or about 64.1 percent, of the overall budget.

The plan also recommends adding $150,000 to the county's contingency funds to cover unexpected general expenses, insurance and fuel increases.

That would place about $4.5 million in the county's reserve fund balance, within the recommended 15 to 25 percent range, according to Berg.

"That's about what it was last year, and again with unknown issues that might come up, we need to keep that up," he said, reminding commissioners of storm damage and other catastrophic expenses the county has faced in recent years.

Among additional challenges in the budget process, Berg cited a drop in property tax revenue dating back to 2009 though the county does expect to see an increase of about 6.71 percent, or $608,000, in 2016, insurance cost increases and the continuation of unfunded state mandates.