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'We recognized we were dealing with many diverse needs' | Gwinnett Co. approves 2020 budget

Commissioners set aside funds to target homelessness, crime response, and elections.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners adopts a $1.84 billion budget for 2020, an increase of 1.1. compared to last year's budget.

Commissioners approved a $1.44 billion operating budget and $401 million capital improvement budget, which includes funds from the County’s SPLOST program.

“As we crafted this budget, we recognized we were dealing with many diverse needs ranging from public safety to parks to economic development,” said Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash. “We allocated funds to try to take care of today’s projects, but we also set aside money for long-term projects that will yield benefits years from now. Ultimately, this budget should allow us to continue to provide superior services for our residents and businesses in the immediate and distant future.”

The budget was developed based on six strategic priorities set by the Board of Commissioners: 

  1. Safe and Healthy Community
  2. Mobility and Access
  3. Livability and Comfort
  4. Strong and Vibrant Economy
  5. Sustainable Government
  6. Communication and Engagement

Safe and Healthy Community

  • The budget allocates funding for a Situational Awareness and Crime Response Center. 
  • Funds will also go towards the recently constructed alternate E-911 center to provide extra security and support to the main E-911 to serve as a backup system. 
  • To help the Police Department meet service demands, the approved budget adds 30 more master police officer positions. These positions will be spread throughout the county while ensuring the newest Bay Creek precinct is fully staffed.
  • The adopted budget includes two more ambulances and three heavy-duty pickups equipped with Advanced Life Support capabilities to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services. 
  • The budget provides funding for an 11th Superior Court judge put in place during the state’s 2019 legislative session and includes District Attorney and Administrative Office of the Courts plus supplementary sheriff’s deputies for courtroom security.
  • Nash adding, "what's important for people to understand with adding an 11th Superior Court Judge, is that we have to add several corresponding positions. This will be a large project for the county to tackle."

Mobility and Access

  • Funding will be provided for a five-lane grade-separated interchange on Harbins Road over State Route 316 and a park-and-ride lot at that intersection. 
  • It also will explore in detail development of Bus Rapid Transit services in the I-85 corridor, and expand and improve the Gwinnett Place Transit Center to enhance customer experience.
  • For alternate transportation, the budget will extend the Ivy Creek Greenway to connect the Suwanee Creek Trail to the Mall of Georgia.

Livability and Comfort

  • The county intends to use budgeted funds for development of Beaver Ruin Park off Satellite Road with wetland trails and boardwalks as well as fund the relocation of the Duluth, Norcross and Snellville libraries. 
  • The budget also includes funds to help address homelessness by providing hotel/motel vouchers for emergency shelter providers and completing the buildout of the Norcross Assessment Center for a homeless center.
  • According to Nash, 1 million dollars of the budget will go towards finding a solution to end homelessness in the community, "this is the first year that we actually have a line item in the budget to address this issue, but this isn't the first year we've been recognizing this need in the community."

Strong and Vibrant Economy 

  • Plans have been set forth to create the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center to aid small business startups by providing resources and services including physical space, education and networking connections. 
  • Funding will also be allocated to continue the Infinite Energy Center Expansion and develop the Water Tower @ Gwinnett for water-related research and training.

Smart and Sustainable Government 

  • Funding is also allocated to enhance the County’s cyber security efforts. The proposed budget also includes a 4 percent pay-for-performance increase to maintain a quality workforce.

Communication and Engagement

  • The budget will fund the 2020 elections with several options for early and advance voting and an increase in poll official pay to staff County precincts with an emphasis on bilingual voting.
  • Nash emphasizing that the 1.1% increase in the 2020 budget had a great deal to do with this year being an election year, "we have a large county and a large bilingual population, so it takes additional resources going into a presidential election year."

Commissioners held a public hearing on the budget Dec. 12 and accepted comments in writing and online through Dec. 31 before making their final decision. 

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