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State of city 'strong,' Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan says
Development producing growth in tax digest
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Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan delivered his state of the city address Tuesday night, promising 2015 will be brighter than 2014.

The city’s finances are “strong,” Dunagan said, and that bodes well for residents as Gainesville continues to grow and new demands arise.

While sales tax revenues fell last year, Dunagan said other revenue sources are faring better than projections thanks to growth in the tax digest resulting from new commercial and residential development. New building permits last year surpassed previous records.

Moreover, Dunagan said departmental expenditures in the current fiscal year are in line with 2008 levels, which indicates the worst of the recession and slow recovery are in the past.

The city’s finances are bolstered, as well, by grant funding, which supports affordable housing and transportation projects in Gainesville, for example.

Dunagan praised local public safety agencies, including the fire department for achieving the top insurance classification, and the police department for implementing a new records management system.

Dunagan said the city will continue to support economic development projects, such as renovations to the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, and allowing larger business airplanes to land at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

He said he is encouraged by the fact businesses occupy 95 percent of the space in the downtown square, and that nearly $3 million in private investment had been made by businesses in the downtown area.

Dunagan said the city will also continue to invest in infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalk construction.

But he said city officials need the support of residents to continue with such investments. He urged voters to support a new round of special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII.

The 1 percent sales tax will support a new fire station, the first phase of a youth sports complex and roadwork, Dunagan said.

But it will cost the city about $20 million to bring all roads in Gainesville up to Department of Transportation standards.

With that in mind, Dunagan said the SPLOST vote on March 17 will determine just how far the city can go in addressing infrastructure needs.

Ending on a high note, Dunagan thanked city workers for their dedication and made assurances to residents that Gainesville will remain a great place to live, work and play.

“In closing, 2014 was a much better year than the past few years,” Dunagan said. “2015 promises to be even a better year.”