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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