A $50 million budget passed 4-1, with Commissioner Todd Pownall voting against. The vote was held Aug. 24.
Pownall disagreed with the budget because county employees are to get raises while still enduring four furlough days this year — down from last year’s seven.
County employees will each receive at least a 2 percent raise, with some sheriff’s officers receiving a 4 percent raise.
“As a small-business owner, I think there are certain things that you do,” Pownall said. “I don’t think you can have furlough days and give a raise. I think that order should have been first to get rid of furlough days and then give raises. I hope you understand my vote.”
Pownall later said he did not think it was appropriate to promise county employees something during an election year before a budget has been made.
Commissioners also approved increasing the millage rate from 7.6 mills to 8.29 mills.
If the commission had decided not to raise the millage rate, they would have collected $1.9 million less than last year because of a nearly nine percent drop in the tax digest, Finance Director Tabitha Pollard said.
“This is, again, the millage rates for maintenance and operations of the county,” Pollard told commissioners. “This brings us to the same collections as last year. The tax digest began declining in ’08, so this allows us to collect the same amount (in tax revenue) as last year.”
Commissioner Tommie Graham said the county collected $4.8 million less in revenue in 2012 than it did in 2008 because of declining property values.
Graham said in 2008, the average market value for a house in Paulding County was $149,000. The average market value for a house there now is $76,000.
“We have an overall lost market value of $2.8 billion, which equates to a lost (budget) revenue of $3.6 million per year,” Graham said. “That’s why a $62 million budget has been reduced to a $50 million budget this year.”
Graham insisted the millage increase is “an extreme need.”
“We got in this mess not in one year; it didn’t happen in ’08. But when you have an emergency and you call 911, you want a deputy to come,” Graham said. “When you have holes in your road, you want somebody to come. It takes money to do those things. It’s a needed thing.”
The board also approved an increase in the fire district millage rate. That rate was increased from 2 mills to 3.1 mills. This rollback will bring an additional $3 million in revenue, bringing it back to where it was in 2008 before the tax digest began decreasing, Pollard said. Without this increase, the county would see a decrease of $500,000 from the fire district millage this year.
“This is based on recommendations from the fire chief and fire advisory board,” Graham said. “This will fund operations of the fire department for the next five years and allow them to hire 21 new firefighters.”