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Council approves budget
Land purchase part of the deal
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The city of Dawsonville has approved a $2.6 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15, though one councilman expressed reservations with the suddenness of a pay increase for city workers.

"We've made some changes recently in regards to the salary study that's been graciously shared with us by the county," Chris Gaines said. "The proposals that I've looked at, and I do want to get us to a competitive position from a free market standpoint, but I would like some more time to digest the changes before I feel comfortable approving this budget."

No residents spoke for or against the spending plan, which totals the same as the 2013-14.

The proposed changes, made by the mayor and presented to council during a June 16 meeting, would have no effect on the end-fund balance of the budget, officials said. Instead, they would draw from funds such as maintenance and supplies to provide pay raises.

"I'm fine with passing the budget as previously presented. I have no issue with the budget as a whole," said Gaines, who asked the council for an additional two weeks to review the recent changes.

City Attorney Dana Miles said the goal of the changes "is to keep the employees that we have as opposed to employees leaving us and not putting us into a position that some other governments have faced.

"This puts us ahead of the curve rather than behind it," he said.

The disagreement itself wasn't over employee pay increases, but rather the swiftness of the changes, according to Gaines.

Councilwoman Angie Smith said she saw Gaines' point.

"I completely support paying workers what they deserve and keeping them," she said. "We have quality employees here and I don't think anybody is saying that we do not. But I also understand Chris' point to the fact that [these changes have] come up in a matter of days, as far as specific numbers."

After further discussion, the reasoning behind the increase became clearer.

"These raises aren't a merit-based increase or decrease. It's not based on the person holding the position, but rather the position itself," Miles said.

"All of these numbers are based on the recent pay study [done by the county of] both what the county is paying now and the recommendation on what they should be paid. From my understanding, the county was underpaying its employees and most of our employees are at or under what the county pays."

That was not an issue for Gaines.

"I have no problem with ... paying and retaining our employees," he said. "I would just like more time with these figures so I would be able to answer to my constituency."

Eventually, the budget was passed unanimously, with council reserving the right to amend it at any time should the numbers be unsatisfactory.

As part of the budget, the city also finalized funding for an upcoming land purchase.

The council had voted unanimously June 2 to buy 14.2 acres between the Dawsonville Municipal Complex and library from Rialto Banks at a price of $483,242, or about $34,000 per acre, for its "Main Street Park" project.

Negotiation plans for financing were finalized during the June 12 meeting of the Downtown Development Authority.