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Hoschton revs up budget plans for 2010
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HOSCHTON — The Hoschton Fiscal Resources Committee is getting a jump-start on the budget planning process for 2010 with the goal of finalizing the budget by Sept. 1.

At a recent meeting, Chairman Tom Walden passed out a tentative budget calendar listing the important dates for the budget process. The mayor and staff will collect preliminary budget information from city departments between the beginning of March and the end of May, which will go to the Fiscal Resources Committee for use in preparing a budget proposal.

"We all know we’re going to be short of revenue this year. Everybody’s short of revenue this year — Jackson County, Braselton, everybody," Walden said. "I don’t want to get into trouble after three months and realize that we’re so short that we’re going to go broke. We’re going to start managing in a manner that makes sure we stay fiscally responsible by the end of this year."

Walden will present the budget proposal to the city council on Aug. 3 and give residents the chance to sound off should the committee include a tax in the budget proposal. Three public hearings are tentatively set for 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13 and 9 a.m. Aug. 20.

The Hoschton City Council approved this year’s budget following a series of meetings that focused on whether the city would include a tax increase as a way to help balance the budget. The council voted 5-1 on Dec. 8 not to levy a city property tax and keep the budget balanced at $722,360, a $130,000 decrease compared to the city’s 2008 budget.

In looking at budget concerns in 2010, the committee discussed the need to update Hoschton’s comprehensive plan this year and the expenses associated with it.

A city or county’s comprehensive plan gets updated every 10 years and details the long-term vision and goals that help local officials guide future development and growth. The plan is also important because the information presented in the document is used to calculate grant funding.

"If you don’t have a quality comprehensive plan, that knocks you down for grants," said Mayor Bill Copenhaver.

He also said City Planner Wistar Harmon will conduct the necessary data collection for the plan, but the city may bring in an outside consultant to put a professional touch on the plan’s look.

"I have no doubt that Wistar can do the work ... but are we willing to spend time to make it (the plan) look professional?" Copenhaver asked.

City Councilwoman Theresa Kenerly said she’d spoken with people from United Consultants about bringing in a consultant at a reasonable cost to the city.

The committee agreed to look into interviewing and choosing someone to conduct public meetings about the city’s vision and put together his information with Harmon’s to make the final product something Hoschton could be proud of for the next 10 years.

"It (the plan) is something city councils should put a lot of effort into. You get a lot of input from the community ... to pass on to future councils," Kenerly said.