Coweta's proposed budget for 2022 includes significant additional personnel for public safety – and no tax increase.
The Coweta County Board of Commissioners adopted a "rollback" property tax millage rate, which maintains the same property tax revenues as last year, on existing properties. But with increases in other revenue streams, the county is proposing to add several much-needed positions.
A public hearing was held last week on the proposed budget. The budget is set to be approved at the Sept. 21 meeting. There were no public comments at the hearing.
The county's fiscal year 2022 starts Oct. 1.
The budget proposal includes adding 27 new positions in Coweta Fire Rescue and 24 positions, including two part-time positions, at the Coweta County Sheriff's Office. The new positions at the fire department are in addition to the current positions that are vacant.
County staff is also recommending one new full-time position, each, for several departments: finance, information technology, tax assessor, tax commissioner, State Court clerk, magistrate clerk, corrections, environmental management, fleet maintenance, road maintenance, community development and the extension office. Two new positions are proposed for the Facilities Management Department; two part-time positions are proposed at the library; four part-time positions are recommended for event services and one part-time position is recommended for the Coweta County Development Authority.
It's a significant – but long needed – increase in Coweta public safety staff.
“It's all personnel we've needed for several years," Sheriff Lenn Wood said after the meeting. In 2020, because of the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its impacts, Wood said he didn't ask for new personnel and tried to keep the budget down. The proposed positions include patrol, investigators, court services, a jailor and medical staff for the jail.
The current budget proposal doesn't include any additional employees for the Elections and Registration department, but that's something that county staff are still working on, said County Administrator Michael Fouts.
The county has purchased the old Carmike/AMC movie theater on Newnan Station Drive, and most of the elections operations will be moving to that annex, once the building is renovated. Fouts said county staff are working to understand what the different needs of the department are. There will likely be a need for a budget amendment either later this year or early next year, he said.
The personnel requests total $2.67 million.
The county is also proposing a 3 percent "market adjustment" raise for all employees and restoring merit-based pay increases for employees. In 2020, the county stopped giving out merit raises out of concerns of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner John Reidelbach asked about long-serving employees who may have topped out their pay scale, and how the county handles that, since employees are giving their loyalty.
In 2016, the county made some adjustments to the pay scale to help with that issue, Fouts said. There were changes in 2017 and 2018 as well, to create longevity increases, address salary compression and across-the-board increases. Additionally, the county adopted a new pay scale in August that will increase the salary range, he said.
The county's revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax is up $4.4 million over last year, and the county is getting an additional $2 million from the Title Ad Valorem Tax for new vehicles. The county is seeing an additional $1.6 million in property tax revenue from new growth and $800,000 in new revenue from building permit and development fees.
The proposed 2022 budget for all major funds is $131,467,527, up 11.69 percent over 2021. Part of that is the general fund budget of $94,188,031, which is up 12.1 percent over 2021.
The budget includes an appropriation to the 911 center out of the general fund. 911 centers are traditionally funded by fees on phone bills. However, over the years, the costs to operate the 911 system have grown to be greater than the revenue from those fees.
While the county is creating the new positions, finding people to fill those positions is likely to be difficult in the current tight labor market, and it could take some time to fill them, Fouts said.
Budget documents can be viewed at https://www.coweta.ga.us/government/departments-f-q/finance .