Gwinnett officials and Chairman Charlotte Nash outlined Tuesday the roughly $1.6 billion budget proposed for the county in 2017, one that includes money to cover expected pay raises for law enforcement officers and other county employees.
"I want folks to know that we’re still focusing on public safety and the justice system," Nash said. "... While we can innovate and use technology is some areas, it’s just some areas of the operations that we've still got to have people. There’s not any way around the need to have staffing."
Overall, the proposed budget of $1,562,205,510 would mark a 5.5 percent increase from the current year's budget. About a quarter of the increase — or $14.6 million — would be tied to a jump in money spent on employee compensation and benefits.
The Gwinnett County Police Department has battled attrition for several years now, with officers leaving for better-paying jobs in upstart departments around metro Atlanta or in the private sector, or getting out of law enforcement altogether. Since 2011, the department has seen a net loss of 66 officers, Chief Butch Ayers said in October.
The proposed 2017 budget (a copy of which can be found here) will include money to help carry out a plan that would give up to 250 Gwinnett officers — plus more than 200 sheriff's deputies and 55 corrections officers — the chance for 6 percent pay raises. A new rank, and accompanying paygrade, would be created for experienced officers.
Increased pay levels for officers in specialized units are also in the works. Officials hope both would keep officers from leaving the department.
The proposed budget also includes money for eligible county employees — including those in law enforcement — to receive 4 percent pay increases if they receive "satisfactory" marks on their performance reviews.
"The primary focus of this proposed budget is on retaining employees, supporting public safety, expanding the judiciary to meet demand and enhancing community engagement," Nash said.
About $1.2 billion of the proposed budget would be dedicated to operating expenses, with the other $384 million going toward capital projects.
- SPLOST money dedicated to the $82 million expansion of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is expected to begin sometime in the second half of 2017. The new 1-percent SPLOST was approved by Gwinnett voters this month and is expected to raise as much as $950 million over its six-year run.
- SPLOST money for a new gym at Suwanee's George Pierce Park plus expansions and improvements at other parks.
- About $126 million for upgrades to water and sewer facilities, "sewer line inspections using a new acoustic monitoring system to help locate clogs before spills occur, and more public education to keep fats, oils and grease out of the sewer system."
- The creation of seven new positions in the solicitor general's office — including one dedicated to assisting with handling the burgeoning number of traffic citations from the county's school bus stop-arm cameras.
- Money for new 24/7 ambulance units at fire stations 21 (470 Old Peachtree Road in Suwanee) and 22 (2180 Stone Drive in Lilburn).
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5, at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium. The commission hopes to adopt a final budget during its Jan. 3, 2017, meeting.
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