Related story: Hall officials propose deep cuts to 2012 budget
CLERMONT — Emotions ran high Thursday night as area residents not only voiced opinions on Hall County's proposed budget cuts but shared how the economy has fractured their lives.
"Tell me what else you're going to put on my back?" Shannon Smith, a Hall County Sheriff's deputy, asked Commissioner Scott Gibbs.
Worried about how additional furlough days were going to affect his already fragile personal budget, he said, looking at a woman in front of him, "Take me in, ma'am. I'm not going to have a house."
People packed the Grover and Lucille Hood Community Center off Hulsey Road and Cleveland Highway for a community meeting conducted by Gibbs on the county's 2012 budget, which takes effect July 1.
Gibbs, who started his first term on the commission Jan. 1, heard a wide variety of comments, with some favoring a tax increase to help correct budget ills and others against the county leaning on financially strapped taxpayers for more money.
Tempers stayed cool, even though the room's temperature was hot and people were using copies of the budget to fan their faces.
But strong applause followed several people's comments, such as for Susan Collins when she said, "Raising the millage is not a good option. Getting more efficient is a good option."
Doug Aiken, who has been vocal in the past about Hall County government matters, cautioned the commission against raising taxes because "there are people out there who are teetering on collapse."
Others, like Lindsay Burton, chief assistant district attorney of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, spoke on behalf of employees and their concerns about benefits and pay continuing to erode.
"It terrifies me what further employee cuts will do," said Burton, whose husband is Hall County Sheriff's Deputy Bonner Burton. "I know what's going to happen: Good people will leave (the county)."
Another resident, Paul Loggins, said he believes the county needs to pursue delinquent taxpayers.
"There are businesses I can hit with a rock from this place right here that owe thousands upon thousands of dollars to the (Georgia) revenue department in sales taxes," he said.
"We could sit here all night long and hear everybody's story because we're all suffering from the same problems, but we need to be working toward solutions," Loggins said.