With the approval of the county’s operating budget last week, residents can breath a sigh of relief that there will be no tax increase in 2010.
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved the $23.8 million budget 3-1, with District 3 Commissioner Mike Connor opposing the measure.
The board also adopted the county’s portion of the millage rate at 8.138.
That percentage combined with the school system’s portion of the millage equals 22.184, the same rate it has been for the last five years.
A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.
In three public hearings, no one spoke in favor or against the proposed $23.8 million budget.
“There hasn’t been a tax increase in five years. There’s not a lot anyone is going to say about that,” said Commission Chair Mike Berg.
The approved $23.8 million budget represents a nearly 14 percent drop in spending from 2009, when the budget was $27.59 million.
Berg said the budgets over the next three years must revert back to the 2008 spending level in order for the county to weather the current slump in tax revenue.
“If we’re going to stay above the water, we’re not going to be able to spend anymore than we did in 2008,” Berg said.
Berg, who began meeting with key county staff and officials in March, said only essential personnel vacancies will be filled, resulting in more than $500,000 in savings from the current year.
There are no new positions, vehicles or cost of living adjustments in the 2010 budget.
As in past years, public safety makes up the highest percentage of operational funding, about 46 percent. The county has made more than $2.5 million in cuts in various areas and continues to look for ways to trim expenses.
The county has also limited travel and training to find additional savings, as well as cut costs in vehicle maintenance and telephone expenditures.
“Anything that we can do to cut cost and still provide quality service for our citizens, we’re doing that,” said County Manager Kevin Tanner.
Berg noted neighboring Forsyth and Lumpkin counties would see a tax increase with the approval of their budgets.
Connor said he would like to take a more active role in next year’s budget process and encouraged the board to review the process.
Currently, the county’s commission chair meets with all county departments to determine the budget and presents a proposed budget for the board’s approval.