Suwanee passes budget, lowering millage rate

SUWANEE - Suwanee residents will pay a slightly lower property tax rate in 2006.

City Council members approved the 2006 budget of $11.6 million that reflects a millage rate decrease by 0.04 to 5.77. Suwanee has reduced property taxes for three straight years for a total of .22 mills.

More than half of Suwanee's revenue, 54 percent, comes from property taxes. Business taxes represent 13 percent. Each year for the next four years, SPLOST will provide $1.5 million in funds. Intergovernmental grants is Suwanee's lowest source of revenue at 0.6 percent.

The budget funds three new employees - an area manager to support the Downtown Development Authority, an environmental planner and a part-time accounting analyst. An allocated $36,000 will hire an inmate labor crew from the Gwinnett County Correctional Institute for six months of parks and roadside maintenance.

For the first time in its history, Suwanee will begin a benefit retirement system for all full-time employees through the Georgia Municipal Association.

The program's initial costs total $345,000 with future costs anticipated at $161,000. The city will also lease four new police cruisers, new computer software, and new public works equipment, including a bucket truck, park vacuum, zero-turn radius mower and a pickup truck for codes enforcement.

Suwanee will spend the largest chunk of cash, 37 percent, on public safety in 2006, and the least, 2 percent, on culture and recreation.

Suwanee has some debt from the $17.7 million bond funds purchase that voters approved in 2001 for the creation of city parks and open space, and $1.2 million will be paid toward that debt in 2006. That payment is covered by revenues generated by the interest on investments. Approximately $3.8 million remains in the open space fund, of which $1 million is set aside to begin work on the Sims Lake Park.

In March 2005, Suwanee paid off - eight years early - a separate $1.5 urban redevelopment loan used to purchase 13 acres on which the mixed-use Town Center is being built. The early loan pay-off saved Suwanee $1.4 million over the course of eight years.