The preliminary 2012 budget presented last week to the Dawson County commission limits spending to critical capital needs.
"This budget is nothing more than a balancing act," said Commission Chairman Mike Berg. "Revenue in versus expenses out."
Berg presented the county's budget during the Aug. 11 commission meeting and emphasized that only necessities would be included.
"There's six new cars in the budget, but the sheriff needs twice that many," Berg said. "One third of the sheriff's fleet has more than 200,000 miles.
"We realize six is not enough, but six is more than five."
In addition to the leased patrol cars, the $20.9 million spending plan, which is down about 4 percent from the 2011 approved budget, also includes funding for park repairs and IT improvements.
Park improvements are also necessary, Berg said.
"When you've got as much [park] property, it's difficult to keep that all up at one time," he said.
As in past budgets, salaries and benefits represent the county's greatest expense at $12.9 million, or 62 percent, of the overall budget.
The 2012 budget calls for a continuance of the hiring freeze and for the fourth year does not include a cost-of-living raise for employees.
The county has also eliminated nine full-time positions and one part-time job in the last several months.
This will also be the first budget that reduces funding for nongovernmental entities such as the chamber of commerce and library, among others.
"In this time, with the economic situation, there's little else that we can do," Berg said.
The proposed budget will require drawing $220,000 from county reserves to offset increases in fuel and health insurance costs.
That will leave about $3.7 million in the county's reserve fund balance.
Commissioners are reviewing the proposed budget and can make suggestions, though Berg said any "changes would have to be zero based, because we've already voted to keep the millage the same at 8.138, with no increase and no roll-up."
Two public hearings are required before the commission can adopt the 2012 budget.
The hearings, which are open to the public, are set for 6 p.m. Thursday and Sept. 1 in the G.L. Pete Gilleland Chambers at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex.