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No tax hike for Gainesville residents
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The city of Gainesville’s budget for next year will not recommend a tax hike for residents.

Gainesville City Council members will take up the city’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget at their meeting Tuesday, but City Manager Kip Padgett gave them a presentation at Thursday’s work session.

The city’s budget for next year is about $29.2 million, but there are some unknowns that could affect the budget down the road, including the current court disputes with Hall County over the revenue distribution of local option sales taxes and special purpose local option sales taxes.

“Hopefully we’ll know (the outcomes) by the end of the summer,” Padgett said. “Hopeful on that.”

City Attorney Bubba Palmour said visiting Senior Superior Court Judge Frank Mills is assigned to the LOST and SPLOST cases.

Another question mark is the funding of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, which is supported by both the city and county. Hall County declined to continue contributing to operate the Red Rabbit fixed-route bus service in April and there are ongoing talks on restructuring Hall Area Transit, part of the community service center, with Gainesville. City officials said they haven’t made a decision on whether they will take over the service.

The city’s capital fund is budgeted at $2.2 million and includes $1 million for roads, information technology improvements and the downtown master plan.

The Parks and Recreation department plans to move forward with some capital improvements to existing facilities. Additional money to improve the Lake Lanier Olympic Center, $120,000, was budgeted and could be used to pay for some major renovations and part of the salary for a full-time facilities manager.

Gainesville is seeing an $825,000 increase in revenue because of rent payments from the Corrections Corp. of America’s leasing the Main Street Jail. But the city is using that money to pay the debt from when it purchased the building.

“We’re expecting property taxes to remain relatively flat,” Padgett said.

Sales and property taxes each make up 18 percent of the city’s revenues. Franchise fees account for 14 percent, and Padgett notes that actions to reduce or do away with franchise fees and insurance premium taxes would dramatically impact operations.

“We broke out franchise fees this year into its own separate slice of pie so you can all see what a big impact that is to the city budget,” Padgett said.

They add up to $5.6 million in revenue. Gainesville spends about 52 percent of its budget for safety, 17 percent on general government and 16 percent on public works.

Padgett addressed the Red Rabbit service after the budget presentation.

Hall County and Gainesville officials met with Georgia Department of Transportation staff in an information-sharing session, said Teri Pope, the agency’s Northeast Georgia communications officer.

DOT staff answered questions about transferring ownership of transit equipment, Pope said. That transfer will require an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county.