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Residents to commission: Be frugal

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Despite last week's vote to raise property taxes, residents told commissioners Thursday they should be frugal on spending during the current economic crunch.

With a vote scheduled for Jan. 5, commissioners held a hearing on the proposed 2010 budget, a $1.3 billion spending plan that is a decrease from last year but includes additional money to add 58 police officers and open three fire stations left vacant by financial woes this year.

"My income is cut in half," Duluth real estate investor Elaine McClure said. "I just don't know how people can handle a 20 percent increase right now. ... I can't imagine having anything in the budget now that isn't absolutely essential."

McClure and others said luxuries such as parks and libraries should be cut while public safety measures are put on the front burner. County officials noted that cuts made to back-office departments such as human resources, financial services and information technology will not be reinstated in the next year.

"We need to make sure everything is cut to the bone," Lawrenceville man Ed Phillips said. "Things are very tedious at these times. There are certain things you shouldn't cut and those are police and fire. ... There are (other) things that are nice to have but we can't always afford them."

Unlike last week's millage rate hearing, Thursday's budget session was sparsely attended with about a dozen people make written and verbal statements.

While one woman said more people should be devoted to code enforcement and another said resources should be devoted to fighting illegal immigration -- both of which are included in the spending plan -- others gave suggestions on how to cut expenses.

Maurice Cook of Suwanee said employees' salaries should be cut, and investments such as Partnership Gwinnett and the county's baseball stadium are not paying off.

"They are hurting the citizens," he said.