Hall returning to in-person school on hybrid schedule Jan. 19
Hall County Schools will return to an in-person hybrid schedule beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the school system reported stabilizing COVID-19 numbers and “significantly” decreased student cases, Superintendent Will Schofield announced Thursday morning.
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Hall proposes rollback millage rate
06142019 Hall
Zach Propes, Hall County’s financial services director, presents the county’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 on Thursday. The proposal includes a rollback millage rate. - photo by Megan Reed

Hall County officials are proposing that the county adopt a rollback millage rate when the next fiscal year begins July 1, although some increased revenues will still give the county an overall larger budget.

The proposed general fund millage rate is 5.098 mills, down from 5.36 mills in the current fiscal year. One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

The budget will go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final approval on June 25. Commissioners heard a budget presentation and held a hearing on the proposal on Thursday, June 13.

The total proposed county budget is $276.7 million, a 2.5% increase from the current year. The county has seen an increase in revenue from some taxes, including property taxes, sales taxes and the title ad valorem tax, according to Zach Propes, the county’s financial services director.

The budget includes salaries for 1,736 employees, including 20.5 full-time equivalent new employees. Those additions to the staff include five new deputies for the Hall County Sheriff’s office, and two new kennel workers at the Hall County Animal Shelter.

County employees will also get a 2% salary increase and a 1% increase in their retirement matches.

Investing in this “human infrastructure” is a priority in the county’s strategic plan, Propes said.

“There were items in the strategic plan that specifically referenced employee retention and focusing in on compensation and benefits,” he said.

The Fiscal Year 2020 budget also sets aside $56.9 million for capital improvements. Those projects include road, sewer system and building improvements, vehicle and ambulance replacements, and technology and software.

Planned renovations include the Gainesville branch

of the Hall County Library System, fire station renovations and Murrayville Park, which the county closed in 2011 due to budget cuts but is working to reopen.

Propes said the county was forced to cut back on capital projects during the economic recession but is now in a better position to make those investments.

“Hall County, through the recession 2009 really until about 2014 or 2015, we were trying to manage the county,” he said. “… Usually during those types of periods, the first thing to go are capital replacements, so your vehicles, your roofs, your HVACs. So now, we’re just playing catch up.”

Under the proposed budget, for each county tax dollar, 64.76% would go to Hall County Schools. The general fund, which includes general operations, public safety, public works and other departments, would get 18.55% of that tax dollar. Hall County Fire Services would receive 9.64% and Emergency Services 2.08%. The county’s Development Services, which includes code enforcement, engineering, planning and road maintenance, would receive 3.66%. Parks and Leisure Services would get the smallest amount, at 1.32%.

Douglas Aiken of Murrayville spoke at a hearing on the budget Thursday, praising officials for choosing to go with the rollback millage rate. However, he said he wished county residents had been more involved in the budget process.

“You should consider that the public participate in this budgetary process, and sometimes it brings out things that elected officials see a citizen in there and it brings a bit different atmosphere,” Aiken said.

Aiken also said he was concerned that the county government is becoming one of the largest employers in Hall.

Another county resident, Jim Barco of Flowery Branch, said he wished the budget allocated more to address road and traffic concerns in his area.

“We have roads over there that are starting to break up like peanut brittle,” he said. “We have traffic up and down Sloan Mill (Road) that at times resembles a race track.”

The budget is available on the Hall County website.

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