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DA, judges, tax commissioner make pitches for budget funds
Deadline to approve spending is July 1
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Public hearings on Hall County’s 2017 fiscal year budget

What: Presentation and public hearing on proposed budget

When: 3 p.m. June 6 and 6 p.m. June 9

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville

There’s an advantage to being an elected or appointed official in Hall County when it comes to budgeting for a new fiscal year: a chance to persuade commissioners in person about the need for specific funding requests.

So it was on Tuesday morning when the district attorney, tax commissioner, judges and others made their appeal to those with the final say.

Early revenue projections place the 2017 fiscal year spending plan somewhere in the neighborhood of $94 million, according to several commissioners.

But administration and finance officials said the exact tax digest numbers, which account for both new growth and the reassessment of property values on homes and businesses, are still being calculated.

Officials must approve the general fund budget before July 1. Public hearings are scheduled for June.

The current year’s $93.6 million general fund budget included no tax increase, marking a 3.68 percent increase over the 2015 fiscal year’s adopted budget of $90.2 million.

It included funding for 24 new full-time positions and $1.4 million for employee raises when approved.

 

District Attorney’s Office

District Attorney Lee Darragh said he hopes to score a salary hike for employees in his office who receive any pay from the county to get them on par with similar positions covered by state coffers.

The pay raises, and associated benefit increases, would cost about $55,000.

“It is not a requirement that such an adjustment be made, but my hope is that the Hall County Commission will recognize the value of compensating (assistant district attorney’s) and their support staff with an eye toward keeping experienced prosecutors long term for the benefit of the law-abiding public,” Darragh said.

 

Tax Commissioner

Darla Eden, Hall’s tax commissioner since 2012, has been after new staffing and supplemental salary increases for the last three budget cycles.

A motor vehicle tag office in South Hall was shuttered as a result of budget cuts in 2011, for example, but Eden has been unsuccessful in convincing commissioners of the need to reopen it.

For 2017, Eden said she hopes procure an additional $173,000 in funding for her office to hire new staff, including a clerk and an auditor, as well as pay supplemental salary increases.

The workload is up 35 percent for her office in recent years while staffing is down 25 percent, Eden said.

Eden was granted funding last year for a new tax levy clerk to service 90,000 parcels.

 

Hall County Juvenile Court

Lindsay Burton, chief judge of the juvenile court, said state mandates have dramatically increased caseloads in the last year or so.

For example, the court began taking on traffic cases for juveniles 17 and under (it was formerly just 16 and under), which caused a major spike.

Moreover, Burton said Hall’s foster care population is double the number in neighboring Forsyth, for example.

Burton said she needs about $55,000 in additional funding to move a deputy to a court administration role and improve benefit increases for a part-time clerk.

 

Hall County Probate Court

Patty Walters Laine, judge of the probate court, said she is asking for an additional $7,500 for a temporary clerk to help process applications for weapons carry licenses.

Laine said applications can top 900 per month and that she is expecting a surge this fall and winter.

“People get scared during election time,” Laine said, adding that if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, more people in Hall will apply for a weapons carry license.

 

Community Service Center

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the CSC, is not an elected official, but her agency’s role in supporting the quality of life of residents warrants special consideration.

The CSC, which provides services like the Senior Life Center, needs an additional $60,580 to pay for the replacement of three Dial-A-Ride vehicles, new Meals on Wheels equipment purchases to address growing demand and general overhead expenses that include salaries, Moss said.

The total CSC budget request from Hall County is $527,604.

“The purpose of my presentation (Tuesday) was to ask the commission to honor my initial request ... or to consider using our fund balance to cover the difference,” Moss said.