The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners adopted a $1.82 billion budget for 2019 on January 3, 2019. Board members held a public hearing on the budget in December and accepted comments in writing and online before making their final decision.
The operating budget, excluding transfers between funds, is up about 4.8 percent. Much of the increase in the operating budget is related to increased personnel costs as the County adds necessary personnel and addresses compensation issues. The budget includes a $1.39 billion operating budget and $438 million for capital improvements, including SPLOST-funded projects.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said the annual budget starts with base funding to maintain core county services such as police and fire protection, jail, courts, roads, transit and water. Additions for new or ongoing initiatives reflect priorities set by the Board of Commissioners last spring.
“This budget continues Gwinnett's tradition of conservative budgeting based on multi-year planning,” said Nash. “It maintains adequate reserves, uses pay-as-you-go financing for capital improvements and also sets aside money for future obligations.”
One focus for the 2019 budget is making sure that a “safe and healthy community” remains a top priority. The budget adds more police officers in the community and sheriff's deputies to staff the detention center as well as new courtrooms resulting from the expansion of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. The budget includes funding for Fire and Emergency Services positions and construction of the Georgia State Patrol Post 51. Commissioners also added about $250,000 in seed money to address the opioid crisis.
Another priority, “mobility and access,” includes expanding transit and improving and maintaining roads and the airport.
The “livability and comfort” priority funds libraries, parks senior services, trails and greenways, and park program expansion and addressing homelessness.
Funds for economic development and redevelopment, a new Water Innovation Center, reliable Infrastructure, and the 2040 Unified Plan fall under the “strong vibrant local economy” priority, while “Communication and engagement” includes the addition of education and outreach positions for the departments of Planning & Development and Community Services.
In regards to the increase in staffing, Nash noted that Gwinnett's population has grown by 22 percent since 2008 while County staff has only increased eight percent.
The tax digest, the value of all assessed property, is above its pre-recession level at $30.3 billion after hitting a low in 2013 and beginning to recover in 2014. Less than half of the total operating budget is funded with property tax revenue.
Five residents served on the budget review committee. They listened to budget requests from department directors and elected officials, studied business plans, budget needs and revenue projections, and made recommendations to Nash for the 2019 budget.
The 2019 budget and supporting documents are available online at www.gwinnettcounty.com.