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Commissioners hear budget presentation, no millage rate increase expected

Forsyth County Commissioners heard a draft of the 2020 budget this week, and it looks like the county millage rate will not increase.

At a work session on Tuesday, commissioners heard a preliminary budget presentation from the county’s chief financial officer Dave Gruen. The 2020 budget will increase from the 2019 budget of $138.7 million to $148.1 million.

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While the budget is increasing, the millage rate is expected to stay the same at a total county rate of 7.936 mills, the same as 2019, but the makeup of the rate will change.

The 2020 rate will be comprised of a 4.791 millage rate for maintenance and operations rate, a 2.175 fire rate and .970 rate for general obligations bond, compared to rates of 4.642, 1.975 and 1.319 in 2020, respectively.

Gruen said the bond rate dropped due to the county knowing “with certainty exactly what our principle and interest is going out” for the transportation bond and SPLOST funding, which was good timing for the fire department and M&O rate, both of which are funding upcoming projects.

“We scheduled that [rate] for things such as facility improvements, right now,” Gruen said. “Long term, that also puts us in excellent shape when the next recession comes, depending how deep it is, that we can continue providing services.”

The county millage rate is combined with the total Forsyth County Schools rate and the state rate for the total millage rate paid by taxpayers.

The millage rate is the formula that calculates property taxes. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.

Included this year in the budget are 27 new county positions, 13 new fire positions and a new risk management position along with increasing health care and internal service costs and a 4 percent salary compensation adjustment for employees.

In the general fund, two areas with the largest growth over the 2019 budget are from the animal shelter – which increased from $1.2 million to about $1.6 million – and animal services, which recently moved from being under the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to the county government, increased from about $460,000 to about $723,000.

“That’s for new items there, primarily positions to help staff up those two services for the demand they’ve experienced since we moved over the compliance section of that from the Sheriff’s Office,” Gruen said.

The Sheriff’s Office is requesting items including new camera and license-plate-reading technology at parks and other areas in the county, along with four new positions, including two involved in court security and two specializing in hi-tech crimes for the major crimes unit, which he said would target fraud, identity theft, larceny and other crimes.

There are several more steps before the county officially adopts the budget.

A second presentation will be held on the board’s June 25 work session, if needed, before first and second public hearings on the millage rate will be held on at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 11.

A third public hearing on the millage rate will be held at 6 p.m. July 18 and can be adopted at 6:30 p.m. at that meeting.

The budget will be presented to the board on Sept. 5, a public hearing on Sept. 13 and commissioners will be able to adopt the budget at the Oct. 3 regular meeting.