Whitfield County delays 2012 budget vote

Whitfield County delays 2012 budget vote

December 13th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb

DALTON, Ga. -- Whitfield County residents have a little more time to give their input on the 2012 budget, after county commissioners voted Monday night to pull the budget approval from the agenda.

"We still have a couple things outstanding that we need to talk about," Commission Chairman Mike Babb said after the meeting. "This is a tough budget."

Commissioners are grappling with a budget shortfall of about $6.3 million but also are dealing with pleas from some agencies to have more funding restored.

Part of Monday night's meeting was a public hearing about the budget, the second commissioners have held.

Commissioners say they expect to raise property taxes next year but the exact amount will depend on how much they cut this year.

The proposed 2012 budget has a general fund of $39.9 million in spending and $1.9 million in capital expenditures, about $1.2 million less than in the 2011 budget.

Commissioners had planned to make the deepest cuts to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center, with about $450,000 in cuts to both of those agencies compared with last year.

Under state law, county and Dalton officials are required to fund equally the losses of the convention center, which are usually around $1 million a year.

County officials initially had cut funding to the trade center, but Babb said Monday evening they are obligated to fund the entity fully.

He said officials also were considering whether to restore some funding to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Most of the public comments, both last week and this week, were in support of the bureau's efforts to increase tourism in the area.

Cutting the budget would hurt the area's economy, supporters have argued.

Other cuts include $50,000 from the library budget, $50,000 from the Department of Family and Children Services, $80,000 from the Dalton/Whitfield County Community Development Corp. and $150,000 from the Solid Waste Authority.

County commissioners have not set a date to discuss the budget further. They have until the end of the year to approve a final budget.

In other business, commissioners voted to approve $48,000 for the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to pay for planning services for the county.

County officials will close their planning office and lay off county planner Kevin Herrit.

The move will save the county about $90,000 a year.

Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at 706-980-5824 or mmartin@timesfreepress.com.