UPDATE: Here’s when you can expect to get your bloomin’ onion fix at Dawson County’s first Outback Steakhouse
The Australian-themed restaurant will soon open its first location in Dawson County.
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Midyear budget looks promising
County anticipating strong finish to 2011
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A review of Dawson County's midyear budget shows the local government appears to be in good financial shape.

"We feel like we'll be able to end the year flat, without taking any money from fund balance," said County Manager Kevin Tanner during a presentation to officials last week.

While there are a number of changes to the 2011 budget approved by the county commission, Tanner said the differences likely will be offset by increased sales tax revenue and internal cost savings.

"These pretty weekends we've had over the last few months have outlet mall traffic up," Tanner said. "Our revenue from [sales taxes] was up almost 13 percent from last year.

"We are projecting our revenue to be up from last year for the remainder of the year."

The original $21.8 million budget approved for 2011 did not include using more than $551,000 from the county's reserves to pay for a new records management system at the sheriff's office and a legal settlement with Etowah Valley Sporting Clays.

The commission approved both measures after the budget was set.

There has also been a drop-off in donations and restricted revenue, which have fallen $99,200 short of anticipated projections.

Tanner said those shortfalls were offset by a series of cuts in the first two quarters of 2011 that lowered spending by nearly $461,000.

The county administration achieved the savings through insurance and fuel reserves, professional services and attorney fees.

Other areas of savings have included finance, risk management, facilities and IT, among others.

"Due to the dedicated staff, department heads and elected officials, we are continuing to be able to provide the level of service that our citizens have come to expect, even in this downturn economy," Tanner said.

Fuel, electricity and water costs have been higher than anticipated.

"Internally, we are trying to manage. Our departments have done a good job," Tanner said.

"Billy Thurmond [director of emergency services] and the sheriff have the largest budgets in these areas and they are putting some demands on their personnel to minimize fuel costs."

Tanner named several factors that could cloud the financial picture. They include major repairs to buildings or equipment, catastrophic events or an unexpected drop-off in revenue.

"We are already prepared for a snow or ice event," he said. "That was in the budget, and we prepared for that."