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New Hall County budget plan restores services, raises taxes
County posts new proposal on website; public hearing set Tuesday
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Hall County budget

Public hearing: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Georgia Mountains Center, first of three scheduled

Hall County officials revealed a new budget proposal late Friday that seeks to restore employee retirement benefits as well as much of the previously-cut funding for the county's parks and emergency services.

The proposed budget will receive its first public hearing Tuesday, and is available for the public to view on the Hall County website.

It restores a number of government services that were on the chopping block in a budget proposal earlier this month, including shoring up nearly $1.9 million of a previously-proposed $2.5 million cut to the county's Parks and Leisure Services Department.

A spending plan county staff offered up to commissioners earlier this month did not include a tax increase but eliminated funding for two of 16 ambulances, threatened to shut down 16 parks and left the county's library board with a decision to close as many as four libraries.

The board decided this week to close two libraries and reduce operating hours at the remaining four.

The proposed cuts were austere, which dozens of county residents and employees made sure to point out at a public hearing on the budget last week.

County officials then worked to restore much of the previously-cut services — though the two county libraries have not been saved under a new proposal — and released the new spending proposal Friday.

The plan also restores funding for the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center, which would have been closed under the previous proposal. Also in the new proposal, some parks — Murrayville, Platt, Lula and Tadmore — would still close.

The new proposal does come at a cost to the county's taxpayers.

To fund the restoration of services, the proposal released Friday relies on an increase in property tax rates of 1.41 mills to help bridge an $11.5 million gap between county revenues and expenditures.

Part of the rate increase, 0.39 mills, is considered a "roll up," or a tax increase that helps offset average losses in county property values.

The proposed increase of 1.41 mills is in addition to proposed changes in the tax rate that funds the county's fire department.

The new budget proposal relies on a fire tax rate increase of 0.77 mills in incorporated areas — excluding Gainesville — and a 0.28 mill increase in unincorporated areas.

One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value. Under the proposal, the owner of a $180,000 home would see a little more than a $100 increase in property taxes, plus the additional fire tax for residents affected by that increase.

The property tax increase shores up nearly $8.3 million of the county's budget shortfall, leaving another $3.2 million in cuts.

Residents can comment on the budget proposal online and at one of three public hearings scheduled on the budget between now and July 30. The first of these hearings is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m.