Hall County formally presented its proposed budget at Thursday’s board of commissioners meeting.
The budget calls for a property tax increase for the fire fund to pay for a new station in North Hall, moving a fire station, hiring new personnel and buying equipment.
It doesn’t include a general fund tax increase or employee furlough days, and it keeps the county retirement contribution.
The county’s 2014 budget has changed from the open house in May. Earlier this month, officials learned the tax digest dropped 1.51 percent, leaving a $560,000 shortfall. Richard Mecum, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, said the county closed the shortfall by budgeting more from fund reserves and reducing the jail’s budget.
“It’s a very tight, very lean budget,” Mecum said. “I think everybody knows that or understands that.”
Financial Services Director Vickie Neikirk gave commissioners the option of increasing the millage rate for the fire fund by 0.50 or 0.75 of a mill. A mill is $1 of every $1,000 in assessed property value. The county uses 40 percent of the assessed value.
The general fund millage rate is 6.25 mills.
Moving the fire station on Short Road and construction of a new fire station at the intersection of Shirley and Mount Vernon roads, plus hiring 15 new firefighters, two pump trucks and two other vehicles would cost about $2.4 million.
Commissioner Billy Powell said if the cities, excluding Gainesville, gave the county the fire services, it would offset the increase in the millage rate in those cities.
Special purpose local option tax revenue will pay for construction of the new fire stations, but won’t pay for operations and maintenance. The fire fund millage rate for incorporated residents is 3.08 and it’s 1.65 for unincorporated Hall County residents.
“We’re starting this new station, we need the extra pumpers and trucks and equipment and manpower it takes to get that going,” Mecum said. “But that’s a station that we’ve been planning on for 10 years.”
In other business, commissioners tabled a decision on closing the Norfolk Southern crossing on Tumbling Circle. Several business leaders, including Tim Evans, vice president of economic development with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.opposed the closing of the crossing.
“All of those (industries) are located with direct access off Tumbling Circle and there’s been an issue turning left on Atanta Highway,” Evans said.
Jason Fields, a highway and railroad engineer with consulting firm Moffatt & Nichol, working with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the crossing is a safety issue.
Many of the public speakers said there’s a need for more of a commitment from Norfolk Southern.
“I think what we really need from Norfolk Southern is an affirmative statement that they will support when we submit a regulatory compliance structure, that will do away with the at-grade crossing, that they will in fact support us,” said Wendell Starke, developer of the Mundy Mill residential subdivision.