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Budget intensity lesser in smaller cities
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Budget season may be winding down for Hall County’s bigger governments preparing for fiscal 2013-14, but in cities such as Lula, Gillsville and Clermont, such number crunching typically flies well under the radar.

Not that money doesn’t matter, officials said, but steam isn’t exactly rising off the ledger sheets in these less-populated municipalities.

The smaller governments don’t even collect property tax, relying instead on fees and other collections, such as the local option sales tax.

“We don’t do a formal budget process,” said Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole. “It may be something the city will go to at some point and time, but (for now) we just basically try to manage the things that confront the city as they come along.”

Some budget activity is underway this month.

The town of Clermont, which sits at the rural crossroads of Ga. 283 and Ga. 284 in North Hall, approved a $258,950 budget last week.

Lula, which is holding a public hearing tonight on its $683,339 general budget, plans to give final approval June 17 at the City Council meeting.

“What I think the council has done the best is they’re conservative in their approach, (and) they’ve insisted that our development throughout the year and our monitoring of the budget remain very conservative,” Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

Special purpose local option sales tax money has helped the city with certain projects. And if LOST weren’t a financial tool, “we wouldn’t be able to roll back taxes” to zero, he added.

Hall County and its cities are in court over the LOST distribution, which is reconfigured every 10 years with the release of the latest U.S. Census population numbers.

The current distribution, based on 2000 data, gives Hall County 75.49 percent and Gainesville 19.87 percent. The other seven cities get between 0.01 percent and 1.63 percent.

Also in line with “our conservative approach,” Bergin said, “is if (something) costs us a dollar, we’re going to charge a dollar back, as far as services go.

“For the most part, that’s our philosophy and it keeps us out of trouble.”

The city, which sits off Ga. 365 in northeastern Hall, also has a water and sewer fund, opening Lula Water Reclamation Treatment Facility in 2011 with the ability to clean nearly 385,000 gallons of water a day.

And the city is growing up in other ways, modernizing its zoning ordinance and agreeing with Hall County to serve the 518-acre Gateway Industrial Centre on Ga. 365.

After countywide budget cuts forced their library branch to close, Clermont residents took matters into their own hands and created their own library.

The Clermont Historical Society celebrated the Historical Clermont DIP Library’s grand opening in April 2012. In December, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to spend more than $500,000 to renovate an old gym to provide more space.

Of Hall’s cities, Gillsville is the leanest in the expenses and revenues that flow through the city, which sits on the border with Banks County and has 230 to 235 residents,

The budget usually runs about $30,000 or $40,000 per year.

“A lot of what we have going on day to day in maintenance and upkeep” is handled by volunteers, Poole said. “If it’s not a real big project, we’ll have a council member or two who’ll take it on and just do it.

“Even some of the contractors that have worked for us have certainly done the work for much less than their standard costs because they’re part of the city and want to help the city.”

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