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Parks budget bolstered by SPLOST passage
Nearly $5 million earmarked for parks projects
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Hall County Parks and Leisure Services

FY 2015 budget: $2,243,329

FY 2016 request: $1,516,787 (does not include full-time salaries and benefits)

What’s new: Request to hire three new maintenance personnel to assist with opening and management of new parks.

In March, Hall County voters approved a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, to fund $158 million in infrastructure projects.

For county department heads, passage of the 1 percent sales tax proved a relief as they prepare their 2016 fiscal year budgets.

The county’s parks department stands to benefit handsomely from the sales tax, with nearly $5 million earmarked for parks projects, as well as shoreline protection programs and the Elachee Nature Science Center.

“It helps us tremendously with capital improvements and things like that,” said Hall County Parks and Leisure Services Director Mike Little.

Little said SPLOST VII revenue will be used for renovations, including parking lot paving, at Cool Springs park in northwest Hall County, as well as for a countywide trail program ­— among other projects.

Meanwhile, Little’s budget request for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1, of about $1.5 million will help with management and maintenance of county parks.

The current budget request does not include full-time salaries and benefits for staff, but does include about $420,000 for part-time labor expenses.

Little is projecting about $406,000 in revenues in the next fiscal year.

Little said he is asking for three new maintenance personnel to handle the opening of Cherokee Bluffs park in South Hall, as well as the county’s takeover of Wahoo Creek park on the north end of Lake Lanier.

But plans to develop a BMX bike course at Laurel Park in North Hall have been scrapped after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer denied the county’s request. Little said an environmental impact study would be needed before proceeding, and that the project is not monetarily feasible at this time. 

“We backed off of that,” he added. “It’s something we would like to discuss again in the future, but as of right now it’s kind of on the back burner.”

There has also been no movement on building new youth sports parks in South Hall on property adjacent to the Spout Springs Water Reclamation Facility.

County officials have cautioned that while departmental budget requests represent spending priorities, the process is still in its infancy.

“We don’t have the tax digest at this point, so it’s very preliminary as far as what this budget will look like,” spokeswoman Katie Crumley told The Times earlier this month.

Administration will meet with department heads and the Board of Commissioners over the next month or so to refine the overall county budget as property tax revenue estimates begin to take shape.

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