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Gainesville to vote on budget with $5M surplus
Extra money will go into reserve account
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Gainesville City Council Meeting

What: Public comment on proposed budget
When: 5:30 tonight
Where: Municipal Courtroom in the public safety complex at 701 Queen City Parkway

While Hall County debates which services to cut or by how much to raise taxes, the Gainesville City Council will be voting on a fiscal 2012 budget that includes a $5 million surplus.

“Two years ago we bit the bullet and made some of the hard choices knowing that hard economic times were here and they were probably going to hang around for a while,” Councilman George Wangemann said. “Fortunately for us we did, because we’re not really facing those hard choices like the county is right now. Sometimes you need to plan ahead and look to see what’s coming down the pipe.”

Though the city budget is in better shape and getting less attention than the county’s, there will be a public hearing at tonight’s council meeting. Following public comment, council members will vote on the proposed budget.

The budget includes no change in the millage rate, furloughs or cuts in services, according to Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan.

Not only will the city be able to break even, but Dunagan said it may be able to replenish the rainy-day reserve fund.

“Just in case the property taxes come in lower than we’re expecting, we’ll have a little fund to fall back on,” he said. “And if it doesn’t, next year we’ll be in just that much better shape.”

Dunagan said the council tries to keep enough money in the reserve to run the city for two or three months. But recent economic hardships have brought the fund down to four weeks.

Under the proposal, the rainy-day fund would be brought back up to six weeks.

But Wangemann said he thinks the council should instead be helping taxpayers build a reserve fund of their own.

“I wanted to take $1 million of the $5 million surplus we had and return that to the taxpayers in the form of a lower millage rate for everybody,” he said, estimating a 0.5 mill decrease. “I think we need to try to be sensitive to the needs of our people because those are the ones who are struggling. Right now, the city is in excellent shape. We’re not struggling so much, and that’s why some of that money needs to go back to our citizens.”

Wangemann offered a plan to roll back the millage rate on June 7. Councilman Robert “Bob” Hamrick seconded the motion, but the measure fell as the three remaining council members opposed it.

Though he didn’t get the rollback he wanted, Wangemann said the city is still looking at a very good budget.

“There are a lot less headaches when you have a surplus,” he added.

The City Council meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the public safety complex.