In this 2013 file photo, Karen Harris (left), manager of the Norcross branch of the Gwinnett Public Library System, leads a tour group.

Gwinnett approves $1.56 billion budget — with a few late additions

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $1.564 billion budget for 2017 — one that included a few late, big-dollar additions.

The adopted budget is about $800,000 larger than the one proposed by Chairman Charlotte Nash in November. The bulk of the increase comes from an additional $500,000 allotted to the Gwinnett County Public Library, which had asked for about $1.1 million more than the roughly $16.4 million it was originally granted.

“The proposed budget did not include all the funding that the Library Board requested,” Nash said in an email Tuesday. “After further review, the commissioners decided to fund $500,000 more, intended primarily to help cover the cost of increases in benefits costs for library employees.” 

Other late additions to the 2017 budget included $270,000 to add Wi-Fi service to “a portion” of the county’s transit fleet, and $50,000 to go toward marketing of Gwinnett’s airport.

Overall, the new budget marks a roughly 5.6 percent increase from 2016. It’s headlined by money that will cover raises for law enforcement officers and other county employees.

The budget will allow the county to carry out a plan to give up to 250 Gwinnett County police officers — plus more than 200 sheriff's deputies and 55 corrections officers — a chance at 6 percent pay raises. A new rank, and accompanying paygrade, would be created for experienced officers, and increased pay levels for officers in specialized units are also planned. 

Officials hope both strategies would keep officers from leaving the department

The budget also includes money for all eligible county employees to receive 4 percent pay-for-performance raises.

Other highlights include SPLOST money dedicated to the $82 million expansion of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is expected to begin later this year; about $125 million for upgrades to water and sewer facilities; and money for new ambulance units at fire stations in Suwanee and Lilburn.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect figure for the total 2017 budget adopted for Gwinnett County on Tuesday.