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Buford council approves $95.6 million budget

BUFORD - City commissioners passed the 2007 operating budget Monday showing $95.6 million in revenues.

With $94 million in expenses, Buford is spending $1.57 million less than it is bringing in, giving the city a surplus. That excess could run the city for about five days, if needed. At $94 million per year in operating expenses, Buford spends about $257,000 per day to keep the city going.

Gas tops revenues

Buford's revenues are up $18.1 million from the 2006 revenues totaling $77.5 million. Buford's gas company will bring in the most cash with 2007 projected revenues of $42 million. A projected $15.7 million will come in from electric company customers. The water department will contribute the least at $977,000.

Gas highest expenditure

In 2007, Buford's financial planners expect the city to spend roughly $18 million more than in 2006. While the gas department is expected to contribute the most revenue to Buford's coffers, it will also eat up the most cash. The gas department is expected to cost the city $36.6 million in 2007. The general expense fund will swallow the second-highest figure at $16.9 million. The city marshals are Buford's least costly expenditure of 2007 at $137,950.

SPLOST

Buford will receive $3.2 million in SPLOST funds from 2002 and 2005. SPLOST 2002 contributes $620,000 toward the elementary, middle and high school expansions. Road improvements along Sawnee Avenue, Sudderth Road, parking and parks improvements will be partially paid for with $2.6 million from 2005 SPLOST funds.

Millage rate increase

The 2007 budget reflects a tax increase. City commissioners voted in September to raise the millage rate by two mills, thereby raising taxes. Buford citizens haven't seen a tax increase since 1976, according to Phillip Beard, commission chairman.

Buford's millage rate rose from 13.35 mills to 15.35 mills. Taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessed value of a property by the millage. A mill is one-tenth of one cent.

Some residents will feel the pinch, others won't, depending on the value of the resident's home. Buford recently passed legislation that reworked their homestead exemption that, in some cases, offsets the tax increase. For example, residents who own a home valued at $100,000 with a $40,000 assessment will see a $93 per year drop in taxes. However, owners of a home valued at $300,000 will pay an additional $146 in annual property taxes.

Commission Chairman Phillip Beard said new state requirements placed on school systems are primarily responsible for the tax increase. Buford operates a city school system.

"School-budget-mandated and structured programs not fully funded by the state is the sole reason for the millage rate increase," Beard said.

Buford denies annexations

Several times each year, Buford expands into both Gwinnett and Hall Counties through annexations. That extra acreage grows Buford's size and adds tax dollars. Monday, commissioners turned down seven Gwinnett County property owners offering approximately 18 acres to Buford.

The residential properties stand along Davis Road, Maddox Road, Dusty Ridge Trail, Jimmy Dodd Road and Fox Run Trail. Buford denied each annexation one by one, even though the city's planning and zoning department had recommended approval of the annexations. Gwinnett County had no objections to the annexations.