Friday, May 29, 2009

Commission Chairman Charles Bannister re: Property Tax Increase

Welcome, as most of you already know, I’m Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charles Bannister. I have held elected office in this county for 34 years and every year I’ve served, I‘ve done so as a conservative Republican. During all of those years, I’ve voted only once for a tax increase- and that was for a tobacco tax. From the day I took office as commission chairman, I have stressed efficiency with my fellow commissioners and county staff.

I say all of this because the financial situation facing Gwinnett County at this time is the most difficult I have ever seen. When I proposed a property tax increase for Gwinnett County, I did so only because I did not believe the other options were in the best interest of Gwinnett’s citizens.

However, we have heard the message sent to us by the citizens and property owners of Gwinnett County and I plan to postpone the vote to set the millage rate. We will conduct our advertised millage public hearing next Tuesday at 10:30am, but it is my intention to table the millage vote scheduled to take place at 2:00pm on June 2.

Much of the concern we’ve heard from the public about the proposed millage increase was generated by misinformation spread about alleged county plans to take over city police departments and the alleged disproportionate taxation of city businesses and residents. None of this information is true. However, we also heard from our citizens about the genuine hardship this increase may cause for some of the citizens of Gwinnett County.

What we will do now is take another look at our current budget and future budgets to see where we can make additional cuts. These cuts will be as aggressive as possible and could impact some of our more protected interests, including financial policies that support our AAA bond rating.

I want to emphasize – our board has already been through this exercise. We have made significant cuts and we have also implemented significant increases to other revenues – all to the tune of $40 million or about 7.8% of our already lean general fund.

To find the additional money, we will have to take another hard look at our biggest operating expenses – courts, parks, libraries and personnel costs. Any additional cuts we make will have significant visible and tangible impacts on county services. Because of the serious consequences further cuts will bear, I am calling on all of our county leadership – civic and elected – to come together to help solve this crisis. Now is the time to put this community ahead of personality, politics, turf, and personal ambition.

I have no firm details at this time to share about additional cuts or how or when we’ll get all county leadership to the table. We are going back to work on our budget immediately and I will be in contact with the other leaders in the coming hours and days.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Free, Fun Activities at Third Annual Trail Mix Celebration

Head outside and explore the trails as Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation celebrates National Trails Day! A huge success for the past two years, this year’s Trail Mix Celebration will be held Sat., June 6, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville.

The day will begin with a fishing derby at 8 a.m., followed by a fun equestrian scavenger hunt for those with their own horses at 8:30 a.m. The Gwinnett Parks Foundation’s two-mile Trail Mix Fun Run/Walk begins at 9 a.m. with an entry fee of $10 per person or $25 for a family of up to five people, and includes a commemorative t-shirt. Registration for the Fun Run/Walk begins at 8:30 a.m.

A 5-mile strenuous nature hike that winds through the park begins at 10 a.m., plus lots of fun activities including hayrides, a petting zoo, pony rides, make-and-take crafts, a rock climbing wall, environmental, animal, outdoor, fishing, and educational programs, plus programs presented by master Gardeners. See how fast you can go through Tribble’s mountain biking trails as timed trials for those with their own bicycles will be held from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Food concessions will also be available for sale.

Tribble Mill Park is located at 2125 Tribble Mill Pkwy. (off of New Hope Rd.) in Lawrenceville. For more information, call 770.822.8840 or visit www.gwinnettparks.com.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

RE/MAX Around Atlanta Wraps Up Collection for Gwinnett families

Drop off items in Duluth before May 31st

RE/MAX Around Atlanta encourages volunteers to drop of donations of food, infant clothing and funds for the Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry and Joseph’s Storehouse Clothes Closet before the collection ends on May 31, 2009.

The collection is part of an effort by Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors (NAMAR) members in six Gwinnett County real estate offices.

Volunteers may drop food, infant clothing or monetary donations at: • RE/MAX Around Atlanta, 2280 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth;
• Coldwell Banker, 1970 Main Street E #D, Snellville;
• Keller Williams – 2170 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth;
• Metro Brokers – 3330 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth; or
• Prudential – 1551 Janmar Road, Snellville.

“We understand that the Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry served more than 1,100 families in January alone, which is more than twice the number they served in January of 2007,” says Sharon Dover, co-broker/owner of RE/MAX Around Atlanta.

“They distribute more than 40,000 cans of food each month, and they provide limited financial assistance for utilities, prescriptions and emergency housing.”

The Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry, Inc. is an ecumenical organization sponsored and operated by an alliance of area churches, combining the resources of church members to meet the emergency needs of people in the community.

For more information on the Ministry, visit www.LawrencevilleCo-op.org or call 770-339-7887.

Joseph’s Storehouse Clothes Closet is a Christian Outreach Ministry of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, which was created by Minister Joyce Dennison in 1999 to provide clothing and encouragement at no cost to all in need. For more information, call Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Lawrenceville at 770-962-1910.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gwinnett Will Lease Stone Mountain Tennis

Gwinnett commissioners agreed Tuesday to lease Stone Mountain tennis facilities that were built for the 1996 Olympics. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) owns the facilities, which are located in Gwinnett County. The 50-year, $1 per year lease agreement covers a 24.5-acre site at 5525 Bermuda Road and includes 15 outdoor tennis courts and support facilities. The existing tennis stadium on the site is not included in the agreement.

More than 300 citizens signed a petition asking the County to lease the property for a public park after it was closed recently. “This is a great opportunity to use existing facilities and open them back up for public use,” said District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who credited the strong citizen support for the move. “This is a vital gateway to our County. Much of the credit goes to Brett Harrell and the Evermore CID for working behind the scenes with the SMMA to make this day a reality.”

The County plans to make improvements and renovations beginning next year with completion by mid-summer 2010.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Commission to Hold Public Hearings on Proposed Tax Increase

The Gwinnett County Commission today announced plans to conduct a series of public hearings on a proposed increase in the county’s property taxes.

The public hearings will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. on May 26 and at 10:30 a.m. on June 2 in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center (GJAC) at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville. Citizens are also encouraged to attend public information forums that will be conducted one hour before each hearing. The commission is expected to act on the proposal following the final public hearing on June 2.

The commission’s consideration of the tax increase follows its adoption earlier this year of a $1.7 billion 2009 budget that reflected needed increased staffing in the county’s police, fire and emergency services departments, efficiency in government service and long-term financial stability. Over the past 12 years, the Board of Commissioners has rolled back property taxes by a total of 3.98 mills. The rollback was possible in part because the county’s rapid growth generated sufficient tax revenues to cover the cost of expanding service needs. In recent years, however, the county’s growth rate has begun to slow.

“We are undergoing a natural and unavoidable transition from high growth to maturity, and that change holds implications both for the services we provide and the way we pay for them,” said County Administrator Jock Connell. “We have been projecting for several years that 2009 would be the year when service demands would exceed revenues produced by natural growth in our tax digest. I should add that the current economic situation compounds our challenges, but it is not a primary cause.”

The County’s situation is complicated by the fact that the Service Delivery Strategy negotiations with Gwinnett County’s 15 municipalities will require the county to dramatically alter its millage rate and accounting structures. The new rate structure will add four new service districts in order to segregate funding for municipal and unincorporated EMS, fire and police services. The 2009 tax structure will decrease the general fund levy, but an increase in the recreation levy, coupled with the new funds, will result in a 2.87 – 3.31 mill increase depending on where in the county a property is located.

“We recognize that the increase is significant and that it comes at a difficult time economically,” said Connell. “But we would also point out that even with this proposed increase, the owner of an average $200,000 home in Gwinnett County would be paying about $2.50 a day for the full array of county government services, including police, fire and EMS protection; transportation; parks and recreation; libraries; the sheriff’s department and county courts; and health and human services.”

The millage increase to be decided on June 2 applies only to the county government’s portion of the property tax bill, which is slightly less than one-third of the total bill. The remaining two-thirds of the bill that funds Gwinnett County Public Schools will be unaffected by the proposed increase.

At each of the public hearings, Gwinnett County citizens will be given an opportunity to express their views about the proposed tax increase.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May Happenings

May 9, 9:00am-4:00pm - Family Fun and Yard Sale
Free admission! Start the summer with family fun and find some bargains on clothes, jewelry, books and more at this great old fashioned yard sale! Free games and crafts for the little ones. Concessions for sale. Reservation required for sellers; $20/space and a table; $10/space only, call 770.723.9516. GCPR reserves the right to disallow items deemed inappropriate during this event. Event held outdoors, rain or shine. Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Rd, Norcross. Code: LSCC14210

May 9, 10:00am-4:00pm - Old McDaniel Day
Free admission! Enjoy a day filled with farm life of yesterday. Lots of arts, crafts and food vendors. Craft vendor’s fee is $50, Food vendor’s fee is $100; call 770.814.4920 for more details and vendor information. McDaniel Farm Park, 3251 McDaniel Rd, Duluth. Code: MDFP10196

May 11, 7:00-9:00pm - Gwinnett ‘Staycation’
Free! Vacation is just around the corner--really just around the corner! See what Gwinnett has to offer, take a virtual tour of the #1 park system in the nation with the Park Police and Recreation Staff. Learn about park safety and how to vacation for free at your county parks! All ages, pre-registration encouraged, call 770.822.8873. Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, 185 Crogan St, Lawrenceville. Code: VRHPC14100

May 15, 8:30am – Senior Day Trip to Booth Western Art Museum and Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
This 80,000 square foot Cartersville Georgia Museum features contemporary Western American and Civil War art, Presidential portraits and letters, Western movie posters, and Western illustration. Etowah Indian State Park Mounds was home to several thousand Native Americans 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D., the 54 acre site contains six mounds, a plaza, village area, a museum and more. $25.00/person (lunch is included); call 770.564.4680 for reservations. Ages 50-up. Pick up at George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center 8:30am; Gwinnett Senior Center at Bethesda Park 9:00am. Code: GCSC14202

May 16, 10:00am-2:00pm - Rock Springs Park Opening Celebration
Free admission! Bring the family and enjoy kid’s activities and fun at the opening of Gwinnett County’s newest park, call 770.822.8840 for more information. Rock Springs Park, 550 Rock Springs Rd, Lawrenceville.

May 21, 1:00pm – Senior Wii Bowling Tournament
Come and test your bowling skills on our Nintendo Wii! All skill levels welcome. Prizes will be awarded for high score, best single game, low score and much more. Only $1/person; pre-registration required, call 770.564.4680. Ages 50-up. Gwinnett Senior Center at Bethesda Park, 225 Bethesda Church Rd, Lawrenceville. Code GCSC14264

May 21, 2:00pm – Senior Cinema
Free! Do you remember your favorite movie from the 50’s? Enjoy a relaxing movie, bring a friend or make new ones! Movie selections are based on popular movies from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Ages 50-up. No pre-registration required; call 770.831.4173 for more information.

May 22, 8:00-10:00pm - Moonlight & Music Concert
Free! An evening of live music with Squat Jazz Band. This alcohol free event is in partnership with Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation and the Lawrenceville Tourism & Trade Association. Advanced reservations $60/table of 6; Lawn seating is free; call 770.822.5450 for table reservations. Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, 185 Crogan St, Lawrenceville. Code: GHCH14200

May 28, 8:00am – Senior Day Trip to The Museum of Aviation
Travel to Warner Robins and visit the crown jewel of middle Georgia, The Museum of Aviation, now the second largest museum in the United States Air Force! Lunch at the Victory Café. $25/person plus money for lunch and gift shop; call 404.831.4173 for reservations. Ages 50-up. Pick up at George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center 8:00am; Gwinnett Senior Center at Bethesda Park 8:30am. Code: GPCC14205

May 30, 10:00am-3:00pm - Kids Connect Carnival
Carnival games, face painting, live entertainment and fun art activities! $3/person in advance; $5/person at the door; age 2-under free; pre-registration encouraged; call 770.417.2200. Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center, 4650 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Norcross. Code: PCC04211
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