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Gwinnett Expects Lean Budget Times To Continue

Talk of finding new revenue sources comes with $1.3 billion proposal for FY 2012.

Gwinnett Expects Lean Budget Times To Continue Gwinnett Expects Lean Budget Times To Continue Gwinnett Expects Lean Budget Times To Continue

The heavy lifting is done on Gwinnett County's budget for fiscal year 2012. But the charts and graphs already show that it won't get easier anytime soon.

During a presentation Tuesday on the county's proposed $1.3 billion budget (operating and capital) for next year, District 1 Commissioner Shirley Lasseter suggested that the county begin looking at new sources of revenue in future years.

"That's a great idea," Chairman Charlotte Nash responded. "We need to take the initiative on identifying other revenue sources. I hope that new revenue ideas can get put into this and future budgets."

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The thing that prompted Lasseter's suggestion was the continued decline in the county tax digest and the strain that it puts on budget planners, and eventually county service providers. For the second straight year, the county has had to pledge reserve funds -- $5.2 million for 2012 -- to deliver the balanced budget that is required by law.

Next year's budget is 12.4 percent below the current budget, and it largely is because the county tax digest will decline $24 million from 2011 to '12. (See attached graphic.) The digest is expected to stay flat or decline slightly through 2015.

"We had hoped that 2012 would be when things would bottom out, but what happens elsewhere in the world may change our view of that," Nash said.

Also, projections provide for the use of reserve funds through 2016.

"We want to have a good basis to have the fund balance to begin work for later years," Nash said.

There will be no new employees, no pay raises and no planned furloughs in the 2012 budget. Also, the policy of holding all vacancies open for 90 days may add some savings.

Some savings will come from holding open vacancies in police, fire and courts ($3.1 million). Also, delaying staffing on Bryson Park (under construction in Lilburn) will reduce costs.

The county's population growth (per the 2010 Census) mean additional insurance premium tax revenue of $4.4 million.

The only county department to see any kind of budget increase for 2012 is Community Services, which supervises elections. The year 2012 will bring significant national and county elections to Gwinnett.

Norwood Davis, a 12Stone Church official who served on the citizens review panel, noted via video that the county's 2012 revenue is about the same as 2008. "The population has grown. The staff has done a good job of balancing the needs with resources available."

"Next year will be really interesting," added Laurie McClain, a CPA who also was on the citizens panel.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Dec. 13 at . Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the budget Jan. 3.

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The  proposed budget briefing is now online. Also, people can make written comments about Gwinnett's budget proposal online.

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