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Hall County budget plan wont increase tax rates
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The Hall County budget for fiscal year 2009 was presented at Thursday afternoon’s commission meeting to mixed reviews.

The budget, presented by Hall County Finance Director Michaela Thompson, did not increase the millage, or tax rate — in fact a slight decrease is proposed — and was drafted to make cuts to counteract lower revenues and a slumping economy.

The requested budget in the general fund for fiscal year 2009 is $107 million, which includes $4.1 million in capital requests.

The requested budget in the fire fund is $16.9 million, including $0.8 million in capital requests.

The proposed millage for unincorporated Hall County is 7.76 mills, a reduction of 0.01 mills. The proposed rate for incorporated Hall County is 8.96 mills, a reduction of 0.02 mills.

Doug Aiken of the Hall County Taxpayer Association painted a bleak financial picture for the years to come at Thursday’s hearing.

"I think they did a great job. It’s so balanced you might envision it being on a knife edge. But it is my opinion that expenses were not reduced enough," he said. "All financials point to a worsening economy. Next budget, in July of ’09, will make this budgeting process look like a walk in the park."

The county’s proposed budget would freeze hiring for all vacant positions for one year unless approved by the administration or board of commissioners.

It would also exclude all capital expenditures. Both measures would be eligible for review after three months.

The county would hold financial reviews every quarter, or three months, through the next year that would look at the difference between budgeted and actual revenues and expenditures and give departments the chance to justify any requests.

These measures and others helped carve the general fund down to $97.2 million from a requested $107 million, but some believe additional cuts can be made.

"I’m going to go ahead and commend the staff and everybody that was a part of this budget. But I want to reserve a lot of my comments to the next meeting because I still want to try to cut in the next two weeks," Commissioner Steve Gailey said Thursday.

At Thursday’s hearing, Ashley Bell, a candidate for the District 4 seat on the commission, spoke against providing benefits to the tax assessors board, a part-time board.

"The only board of tax assessors in the entire state of Georgia that receives full-time health benefits is Hall County’s board of tax assessors," said Bell, who is running against current commissioner Deborah Mack. "How can you justify health insurance?"

Thursday’s hearing was the first on this year’s budget, and it will not be finalized until the next board meeting June 26.

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