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Hearings on tax hike today
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Forsyth County News

Hearings today

Residents are invited to give input on the proposed tax increase during two public hearings today at the Forsyth County Administration Building in downtown Cumming. The first is set for 11 a.m. and the second at 6 p.m.

As hearings on a proposed tax increase loomed, Forsyth County commissioners continued their 2011 budget talks Tuesday.

County Manager Doug Derrer said staff members have identified about $3.7 million in possible cuts, leaving a shortfall of $9.5 million in the estimated $93.6 million budget.

At the end of the talk of possible cuts or increases in revenue, Commissioner Patrick Bell said the commission was looking at a 1.15 to 1.25 increase in the millage rate.

One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.

The commission will begin the millage rate hearings today, with the first set for 11 a.m. and the second at 6 p.m.

The third and final hearing is set for July 22, after which the commission could adopt the millage rate.

Fowler Park, the county's 80-acre site slated to open in January, continued to be the center of much discussion Tuesday.

"I'm not sure we want to open up anything that's going to require staffing," said Chairman Charles Laughinghouse.

The estimated revenue increase from opening the facility is about $22,500, according to Bell's calculations.

The cost of running the park in 2011 is estimated at between $455,000 and $500,000.

The parks and recreation budget overall is three times the size of the courts' budget, said Dawn Childress, circuit court administrator.

She said the difference represents "something fundamentally flawed with the budget," since the courts provide mandated services.

Commissioners directed staff to find savings in road improvements, as well as the animal control budget.

Bell suggested raising tag fees or animal pick-up fines to increase revenue at the shelter, which would provide a credit to the county.

He also proposed reducing code enforcement staff by placing those employees in vacant, funded positions.

Derrer also reviewed the vehicle replacement fund, line by line, finding potential savings by defunding or using bond funds when possible.

The commission must approve the millage rate by July 31, though the county's budget doesn't have to be approved until the end of December.