First Posted: 1/7/2014 7:19:14 PM | Last Updated: 1/7/2014 7:19:15 PM
(Lawrenceville, Ga., Jan. 7, 2014) – The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners today adopted a $1.5 billion fiscal year 2014 budget that preserves core services and focuses on priorities set by commissioners during a strategic planning session held last May. The balanced budget holds the line on property tax rates, expands the delivery of emergency medical services, addresses the issue of employee retention and recruitment and funds the impact of legislation and other external factors.
The operating budget totals $1.027 billion. It includes a three percent raise for employees, the first increase in five years, and allocates funds for community outreach, juvenile justice reform, drug court expansion and a library reserve. The budget also absorbs a nearly 10 percent increase in health care costs.
Emergency medical services will be expanded with staffing to support two new med units. A total of 18 positions will be funded: three new positions and 15 that were held vacant during budget cuts in previous years. In addition, the budget funds five new positions in response to statewide juvenile justice reform, three in Juvenile Court and two in the District Attorney’s Office.
Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said community outreach efforts would include a Gwinnett Citizens Academy, among other programs. “While the details will be worked out in the coming months, I am looking forward to offering interested residents the opportunity to learn more about county government and to become engaged in their community,” said Nash.
The capital budget totals $486 million and includes funding for projects from the 2014 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that begins collections on April 1 when the current SPLOST program ends. Voter approval of the SPLOST renewal last November allowed for the County to budget the use of sales tax rather than property tax for some essential purchases and improvements like ambulances, fire trucks and road resurfacing.
After five straight years of decline, County officials believe the 2013 tax digest represents the bottom of the drop in overall property tax values in Gwinnett. In addition, slight growth in the tax digest is anticipated for 2014 now that values of existing properties have stabilized and new construction is being added to the digest.
Among other cost-saving measures that remain in place, the County will continue a policy of holding vacant positions unfilled for at least 90 days, which saved more than $7 million during fiscal year 2013.
The budget was developed with input from four county residents and business people who were selected by Chairman Nash to serve on the budget review committee. They worked with elected officials and County staff to review departmental business plans and projected revenues to set priorities.
The budget resolution is available online at www.gwinnettcounty.com. Departmental budget presentations made earlier this year are also available online at www.tvgwinnett.com. A comprehensive budget document will be available later in the year.