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County commissioners discuss budget for 2022
BOC 2022

Usually, Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond sits in the central seat behind the assembly room’s curved wooden island, but Thursday night, he was up at the podium talking about next year’s general fund budget. 

Thurmond presented a fiscal year 2022 budget of $32,176,013, which includes the millage rate of 7.625 mils, down from 7.885 mils. The proposed budget clocks in fairly close to the FY 2021 amended one of $32,114,834.

For FY 2022, property taxes are still projected to bring in the biggest slice of revenue at barely over 39 percent. LOST revenues are projected to be 29 percent. Other taxes, fees, service charges and income will compose the other 35 percent. 

The proposed 2022 budget includes use of $534,017 from the fund balance, although in the four years that he’s led the board, Thurmond said he hasn’t seen the balance used. 

The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office comprises the largest portion of 2022 general fund expenditures at $8.88 million. Public Safety entities ranging from the fire and EMS departments to the Humane Society will be allocated roughly $5.98 million.

The other departments are slated to receive the following:

  • General government (BOC, elections, etc.): over $6.5 million

  • Judicial: $3.86 million

  • Public Works: $1.91 million

  • Other financial projects: $1.77 million.

  •  Recreation and Culture: $1.735 million

  • Housing and Development: $1.12 million

  • Health and Welfare: $373,000

Notable expenses

Earlier this year, the county government was notified that it would receive $5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Thurmond reminded the commissioners that $1.5 million was set aside in a special fund to cover salary increases for first responders for the next three years. 

For the 170-175 part and full-time employees who did not receive money from COVID-related funding, each will receive dollar-per-hour raises from a planned amount of $341,615. Additionally, the county manager will be given $75,000 as a contingency for county employees who may want to request additional pay raises. 

Thurmond proposed nine new positions with an allocated $657,919. This would allow the county to upgrade a part-time custodian to be full time and hire:

  • a county marshal;

  • two more IT personnel;

  • a senior judicial assistant in Juvenile Court;

  • a front desk clerk for Planning;

  • a legal assistant for the public defender;

  • a pretrial officer for the Superior Court.

Two capital projects will be funded by transfers from the general fund. A vehicle for the tax assessor’s office will cost $28,000. The sheriff’s office will also get a new, much-needed x-ray and metal detector for the courthouse at a cost of $25,000. 

Collections for the sixth Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax ended on June 30, leaving $4,915,783 in overages. Included in the SPLOST VI overage funds was $1.595 million for use on various Parks and Recreation projects, such as a new canoe/kayak put-in at Dawson’s River Park. Thurmond also highlighted $521,241 in funds for IT fixes across county departments.

SPLOST VII took effect on July 1, and $9.5 million is projected to be received in 2022. The highest priorities, the Emergency Operations Center and communications upgrade projects, will be the first items for which the funds are used. 

Since Thurmond became the BOC chairman four years ago, he said he appreciates department heads coming in front of the full board to present their budgets. 

“One of the things that I'm very glad this board has been very good at is telling our staff, ‘If you need something, come and ask for it,’” Thurmond said. 

Citizens can come comment on the proposed FY2022 budget at public hearings during the 4 and 6 p.m. BOC sessions on Oct. 21 and the 4 p.m. session on Nov. 4.