By Kristi Reed
County employees will be feeling the pinch from Barrow’s struggling economy in the upcoming year.
Salary increases, merit raises and cost of living adjustments for all county employees have been eliminated from next year’s budget.
The cuts resulted from changes made to the original 2009 budget.
After commissioners rejected a proposed stormwater utility fee and reinstated $45,000 in funding for the Industrial Building Authority, the budget was thrown out of balance as projected expenditures grew to exceed revenues by $441,900.
Tuesday night, Chief Administrator Keith Lee presented a modified budget proposal.
In order to balance the budget, county employees will now go without an increase in pay and property owners will pay a reduced stormwater utility fee.
In the original budget, the stormwater utility fee would have added an additional $690,000 to county coffers. The funds were to be used to manage the county’s stormwater infrastructure.
After several commissioners expressed a reluctance to implement the fee, county financial planners were forced to determine an alternative method of funding state mandated repairs and maintenance of the county’s storm drains and retention ponds.
The solution proposed Tuesday night includes a flat fee of $18 per residential unit. Businesses will pay fees equivalent to the number of residential units that would comprise the same square footage as the subject commercial or industrial property.
The collected stormwater fees will be maintained in a separate fund and used only for stormwater maintenance and repairs.
While the budget passed with a majority vote, some commissioners were not pleased with the final proposal. Dist. 1 commissioner Jerry Lampp voted against the budget and Dist. 3 commissioner Bill Healan expressed reservations about funding the Industrial Building Authority (IBA).
“I don’t want to minimize the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce,” Healan said. “However, we’re not the sole support for the chamber. It bothers me that we’re taking tax money and providing it to a private entity. We are asking our employees to forego raises and we’re making gifts. We’re not in a position to do that.”
Prior to the adoption of the budget, Healan motioned that the funds for the IBA be removed from the budget. The motion failed.
In other business, the board of commissioners set the millage rate for 2009. For the unincorporated parts of the county, the rate was set at 9.338, a marginal decrease from last year’s rate of 9.341. Winder residents will pay 7.182 mils, the same as last year.
Last month, the Barrow County Board of Education set the countywide school millage rate at 18.5.
Storm water fee for cleaning up retention ponds where developers duped the homeowners and dumped the responsibility on the county for cleaning up. Every new subdivision developed should have a plan for taking care of the retention ponds by the homeowners with home association fees. Now we are building houses that don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of services i.e. schools, roads, etc .....and we are creating a new service that requires tax payer money .. Retention Pond Maintenance. Just amazing.
If the county commissioner weren't in the habit of chasing businesses out of Barrow, they wouldn't have the problem with unbalance budgets. Add this to the fact they spend money frivolously and you understand why they are being voted out.
I don't know anyone who is getting a raise this year. But, I do know 3 people who have been laid off! So, county employees, please do not whine that you are not going to get a raise. We are all in this together.
I have an idea -- why not collect the past due taxes. I was looking at the Barrow County Tax website and property next to mine is owned by someone who owes over $30,000 in back taxes (2006-2007). I stopped adding when I hit 30,000.
Check out the Barrow County website https://propertytax.barrowga.org/taxbillsearch.aspx. Search Kirkland, India G. I want to know who the hell she knows in Barrow County Government!!!!