Fulton County residents will get their chance to weigh in on how the county government spends taxpayer money in a series of public hearings that continue Wednesday as the county commission considers a $1.1 billion budget for the coming year.
The new budget proposed by Fulton leaders includes more money for disaster relief and cyber security, programs to help with mental health and addiction treatment as well as additional funds for job training services that came under fire in recent months after grant money went unspent.
The $1.093 billion budget proposed for 2019 is an 8.3 percent increase from the 2018 budget. About $702 million of that is in the general fund, which equates to a 4.5 percent increase over last year’s total. The bulk of county revenues come from property taxes.
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In addition to Wednesday’s public hearings, county commissioners will discuss the proposed budget at a work session Friday and will hold a public hearing later this month. The commission will to vote to adopt a budget in January.
The planned expenditures will cost more than county government expects to bring in in property taxes and other revenues. The difference will come out of a $158 million reserve fund, leaving the county with an expected $109 million in reserves at the end of next year.
Dick Anderson, the county manager, said the county is not required to keep as much money in reserves as it has socked away. He said the county has historically under spent its budget, and that that unspent money will help pay for one-time expenditures in 2019.
“We have resources available because of good management,” he said.
The proposal includes plans for enhanced cyber security and physical security at county buildings, and a proposal to create a backup operations center outside of downtown in case of a disaster. All together, those plans would cost about $4.2 million.
A project to expand mental health services, including in the justice system and for homeless residents, would cost an additional $2 million. And the county plans to spend $500,000 to enhance workforce development training, including identifying more residents who could benefit from the training. In recent years, the county has failed to spend all the money it has received in workforce development grants, but Sharon Whitmore, Fulton’s chief financial officer, said the program is back on track.
Additionally, the county plans to make permanent what had been a temporary annual expenditure to improve services in the courts. That $5.7 million would go toward efforts to reduce the jail population and reduce administrative costs, among other things. And $2.2 million has been earmarked for the solicitor’s and district attorney’s offices, including for more attorneys.
More money will also go toward existing infrastructure improvement programs, as well as revamping senior centers and getting county employees new computers. The implementation of a pay for performance program will cost $10 million. And the county has plans to spend $2.1 million at the Fulton County airport, to position it as a disaster relief location, as well as for economic development.
“One of our key messages is that this is a budget that provides for the continuation of services that exist today,” Whitmore said. “There’s no reduction of services.”
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