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Rockdale County Assembly Hall

CONYERS — The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners is proposing an $83,160,501 general fund budget for 2022. The proposed budget is $1,757,926 greater than the current revised 2021 budget of $81,402,575, and includes $2.8 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.

The overall county budget is $150,545,807 and includes the Water Resources Fund, Storm Water Fund, and Special Revenue Funds and Debt Service Funds.

Finance Director Mark Lewis, who came to Rockdale County in June from Oregon, following the county’s 10-month search for a new chief financial officer, presented the proposed general fund budget.

Lewis said budget highlights include:

♦ No tax increases — In August the BOC approved, for the second year in a row, taking the property tax rollback rate, which keeps property taxes at the same rate they were the year before. The BOC has warned that it will not be able to take the rollback rate again next year.

♦ No use of reserve funds to balance the budget.

♦ More focus on use of technology.

♦ More focus on COVID vaccinations.

♦ More focus on economic and infrastructure development.

Taxes make up 64% of the revenues in the budget, with HOST revenues paying 25%, charges for services paying 6%, fines and forfeitures paying 3%, ARPA funds paying 1%, and licenses and permits paying 1%.

Salaries and benefits make up the majority of the general fund expenditures at 65%. Purchased and contracted services are 22%, supplies are 9%, and indirect costs are 4%.

Public Safety, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Rescue, E911, EMA, EMS, Coroner, and Animal Services, has the largest operating budget of $40,733,654, with the Sheriff’s Office taking 61% of that.

General Government, made up of the Board of Commissioners and 12 departments, gets the next highest portion at $24,370,356. The Maintenance Department gets 24% of it, followed by Finance at 22% and Technology Services at 17%.

Court Services receives $8,959,897, with the Clerk of Courts getting 27%, followed by the District Attorney with 21%.

Cultural and Recreation, which is made up of Parks and Recreation, Libraries, and Senior Services, receives $5,474,219, with Parks and Recreation receiving 65%.

Transportation receives $3,622,374.

Following the presentation, Post 2 Commissioner Doreen Williams noted that without the ARPA funds, the 2022 budget would be lower than the current budget.

“I just did a quick calculation,” she said. “You know the budget last year was $81.4 million and this year it is $83.1 million. But we have $2.6 million ARPA funds, so I subtracted those ARPA funds from our budget this year, which leaves us with $80.3 million. So without those ARPA funds, our budget is lower than last year.”

Post 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington stated that the rollback property tax rate the BOC took in August at the request of residents had an impact on this budget in terms of personnel and services and said the county may have to cut some things they done in the past in order to maintain personnel and deliver services.

“I don’t want people to think that everything is rosy in this budget, because it is not, because we made the hard decision to take the rollback rate, and that is also going affect what we can do for our personnel in the future,” Washington said. “That means that we’re still below market rate in our pay rates. We’re not going to be able to get people up to market rate this year, and that’s disheartening.”

Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. agreed with Washington that not being able to pay employees the market rate in salaries is very critical in the current workforce climate.

“We were already trying to find qualified, competent talent before the pandemic,” Nesbitt said. “Now people are going to have a lot more options, and it’s really going to make it tough when we’re not able to keep our employees at market rate, because they’re going to look at what they’re getting paid here in Rockdale County, they’re going to compare it with other entities, counties and businesses, and people have to bring food home and put it on the table, and they’re going to make a decision. My prayer is that we don’t lose qualified folks here in Rockdale County. But there is an impact in listening to our citizens regarding the rollback, and we cannot continue to move in that same direction, or there will be an impact on the delivery of services. There’s no way around it.”

Corliss Turner was the only citizen to speak at the public hearing, and she pleaded with the BOC to bring more commercial businesses into the county rather than continue to put the tax burden on residents.

Following is the remaining schedule for the budget hearings:

♦ Tuesday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m. — First reading of the 2022 Appropriations Ordinance.

♦ Tuesday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m. — Second reading and adoption of the 2022 Appropriations Ordinance.

These meetings will be held in the Assembly Hall located at 901 Main St. in Conyers.

A copy of the proposed 2022 Appropriations Ordinance is available for inspection on the Rockdale County Website at www.rockdalecountyga.gov.

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Senior Reporter

I've worked in community newspapers for 30 years, including Editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus from 1993-1999. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016. Started as Senior Reporter at the Jackson Progress-Argus in December 2019.

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