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Gainesville approves 2013 budget with tax roll-up
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In other business

- Gainesville City Council agreed to seek a federal grant to help pay for bulletproof vest replacement for the Gainesville Police Department. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is offering to award up to 50 percent of the costs to replace expired vests or purchase new ones. Police officials estimate the department is in need of about $16,800 in vest replacement.

- The council voted to accept $23,500 in grant money from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to continue funding the Georgia Search and Rescue Program and the K-9 Search and Rescue Program. The Gainesville Fire Department hosts one of the task forces for the search-and-rescue program.

A divided Gainesville City Council passed its fiscal 2013 budget and a property tax rate roll-up at Tuesday’s meeting.

As expected, the council approved the millage rate roll-up by a 3-2 vote. Council members Bob Hamrick and George Wangemann voted in opposition, arguing the rate increase was unnecessary.

The roll-up is intended to adjust the rate enough to bring in the same amount of revenues from property taxes as the previous year. Gainesville is expecting a 7 percent decrease in the tax digest.

The change is expected to raise the current 2.92 mills to 3.06. That includes roll-ups from all city funds including general government, parks and recreation and debt service.

Millage rate is the multiplier to determine what a property owner pays in taxes, with 1 mill equaling $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

In recent weeks, Hamrick and Wangemann have been arguing that the city could approve the proposed $28 million budget without the roll-up. However, they were unable to convince the majority of the council.

During the budget hearing Tuesday, Hamrick tried unsuccessfully to postpone setting the millage rate until July. He said he believed remaining funds from the current fiscal 2012 budget, which expires at the end of the month, would allow the city to avoid the roll-up.

Instead, the city moved forward passing the millage rate first and finally the budget with a unanimous vote.

With the passage of the budget, Gainesville employees can expect to see a 3 percent pay raise in October as a cost-of-living adjustment. The city is also reducing the medical deductible for employees from $2,000 to $1,500.

Those changes enjoyed broad support from the council, which is looking to retain its trained and qualified employees.

Wangemann said he liked what was in the budget but thought the taxpayers deserved a “small break.”

“There are in my opinion ... sufficient moneys to bring the millage rate down slightly to where it was last year,” he said.

However, Wangemann also admitted there are no hard figures yet from the final month of the fiscal year to prove it.

 Mayor Danny Dunagan said the budget, and the millage rate roll-up, address “some of our most dire capital needs,” including the replacement for police cars and road paving.

Council member Myrtle Figueras called the budget “the leanest piece of budget I have seen in a long, long time.”


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