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Proposed 2017 county budget includes higher property tax, raises
First public hearing Oct. 20
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County Commission Chair Mike Berg presented a $36.4 million budget for fiscal year 2017 last week that includes raises, new vehicles and capital improvement projects that have been requested by various boards and departments within the county.

The proposed county budget contains requests for the next three fiscal years: 2017, 2018 and 2019. Commissioners will consider the three-year budget but adopt an annual appropriations ordinance for 2017 only.

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

Various departments have requested personnel changes that would amount to $1.74 million if approved.

Three positions are proposed to move from part time to full time, and out of 26 new part-time jobs, 11 are for the sheriff's office and 10 are for the fire department. Thirty-one positions have requested salary increases.

Berg said the new full time positions would include a Fire Inspector, Human Resources Benefits Specialist, an E-911 supervisor and a Chief Deputy and Corporal Investigator.

A part-time magistrate clerk, increased hours for the senior center part-time nurse and a supplement for the Public Defender Attorney were also included in personnel requests.

Berg suggested that members of all the county's boards now be paid per meeting. The board of elections would get an increase from $61 to $100 a meeting, the Development Authority Board and Park Board would go from $0 to $100 and the library board would receive an increase from $0 to $50.

"This way all boards now have some money for the work we appoint them to do," Berg said.

Berg also indicated that capital improvement requests would require $6.88 million from the budget.

Among the recommendations is the purchase of nine vehicles, a decision based on the county's vehicle replacement policy. Other funds are slated to go towards park repairs, lease payments, partial HVAC unit replacements at the jail, and a new digital sign at Veterans Park, similar to the one at Rock Creek currently.

Contingency funds for unforeseen events were built into the budget, and contain a $100,000 general fund, $50,000 for insurance and $50,000 for fuel.

Berg also mentioned in the budget presentation that property tax revenue will increase 5.56 percent, or $517,600 in 2017 due to the commission's August vote to keep the county's millage rate steady at 8.138.

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.

The commissioners are now reviewing the proposed budget and can make suggestions. It's likely that any changes would be zero-based since the commission voted to keep the millage rate the same.

Two public hearings are required before the commission can adopt the budget. The hearings, which are open to the public, are set for 6 p.m. Oct. 20 and Nov. 10 in the assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way in Dawsonville.

In other business:
The commission voted to accept Fredrick's Cove Road into the Dawson County Road Maintenance Program, with the amendment that the county will not be responsible for the maintenance of two retaining walls located near the road.

The commission voted to update a clinical contract with Dawson County Emergency Services and the Chestatee Regional Hospital, with two amendments to be made at a later date.

Commissioners also voted to move forward with public hearings on the proposed amendment to the 2006 Ambulance Billing Ordinance. Berg said that the county is losing a lot of money with the ordinance as it stands, and the amendment will prevent that.