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No tax hike in Gainesville budget, but more money for parks, police, parking
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Manager Bryan Lackey presents the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 city budget to the Gainesville City Council Thursday, May 30, 2019. - photo by Megan Reed

Gainesville officials are recommending the city roll back its millage rate to 3.322 mills from 3.364 mills, the amount needed for the average city property owner to maintain their rate in light of increased property valuations.

City Manager Bryan Lackey presented the recommended budget to the City Council on Thursday and also outlined some proposed capital projects and improvements for the police and fire departments.

The city is seeing some growth — the estimated population is now 44,000 and there are about 15,000 housing units — that has led to some increases in revenue, including in the title ad valorem tax, sales tax and franchise fees.

Assessed property values also went up, and the proposed millage rate decrease reflects the average amount a property owner would need to see in order to avoid paying higher property tax rates, Lackey said.

“Because of the new construction in the city limits, assessed property values are going up. That is a good thing for property owners,” Lackey said. “As a result, the city was able to roll back the property tax rate.”

Water and sewer rates for Gainesville Water Resources, which provides service to much of Hall County, are remaining steady under the proposed budget.

The proposed $31.9 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020, beginning July 1, gives the city 1.8% more money to work with compared to the current fiscal year. Projects planned include a new skate park and a rebuilt fire station.

Community members can provide input on the budget at a hearing on June 4, and council members will vote to approve the budget and millage rate on June 18.

Police

The budget includes a new full-time position for the Gainesville Police Department, a crime scene technician. The position currently also includes investigation duties. Having a dedicated crime scene technician will allow police to keep more of this work in-house, as they are currently outsourcing crime scene technician work to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The capital improvement fund also includes $275,000 to replace some aging police vehicles.

Police also plan to continue increased patrolling in the Park Hill Drive area, which experienced several crimes including a murder and robbery earlier this year. The city will be expanding its Park Hill Drive neighborhood study, which began last year and was intended to look at traffic in the area but will now also examine more general quality-of-life issues.

Parks

Almost $2 million has been set aside in the capital improvement fund for a new skate park to be built at the intersection of Pine Street and High Street in midtown. Construction is set to begin in July.

Also, Lake Lanier Olympic Park on Clarks Bridge Road officially becomes a city park on July 1. The city has set aside $250,000 in the capital improvement fund for some renovations at the park, which officials have said will likely include boathouse renovations and a pavilion.

Fire Station No. 2 relocation

Gainesville’s Fire Station No. 2 is currently on Holly Drive near the Gainesville Civic Center, but the new budget includes some money to build a new station on Cleveland Highway.

The budget allocates $600,000 for the new project. The coverage area for the new station will include the areas currently served with the potential to expand as more developments come in.

Moving the station, which was built in the mid-1950s, has been planned for years. The city purchased the land at 1741 Cleveland Highway, a former appliance shop, last year.

Parking deck near Gainesville library

The site at 100 Brenau Ave., currently home to a temporary branch of the Hall County Library System, has long been on officials’ radar as a possible place for a new parking deck. The city will now move forward with those plans and has allocated $250,000 in the capital improvement fund for a design of the deck, which will be at the former Turner, Wood & Smith site.

Lackey said construction would only begin after the library moves back to its permanent location across the street. The building is being renovated, with work set to be complete in summer 2020.

The city hopes to use funds from the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to pay for the construction of the deck. SPLOST VIII, a penny sales tax, will go before voters in November.

Public hearing on proposed budget

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 (general meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.)

Where: Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway, Gainesville

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