No changes made to Snellville taxes

SNELLVILLE - City leaders voted not to increase the 2009-10 property tax rate in Snellville Monday night, even though there's a budget shortfall of about $1 million in the proposed budget for the same fiscal year. The rate will remain at 4.15 mills. A rate of 5.25 mills was advertised for the purpose of a public hearing.

One of the suggestions city staff proposed to make up for the shortfall was to begin charging residential property owners $10 per month for garbage pickup. Currently, residents are not charged a monthly fee for sanitation. The $10 per month fee would make up about $600,000 of the $1 million deficit.

At Monday night's public hearing, several residents spoke out against raising the millage rate. Some cited the ailing economy and its impact on their households. Others reminded lawmakers of the substantial senior citizen population in the city, most of whom live on fixed incomes.

Every resident who spoke at the hearing opposed the sanitation fee, complaining of the restrictions imposed by Robertson Sanitation and the city's recycling center.

Another suggestion in the proposed budget is a one-day-per-month furlough for all full-time city employees and decreasing the number of hours part-time employees work. Several residents supported this measure and even suggested increasing the number of furlough days.

Every resident voiced adamant support of the Snellville Police Department and opposed decreasing the number of officers to save money.

"We're going to have a lot more vacant homes in Snellville if you implement this (tax increase)," Dick Russell, an 18-year resident of Snellville, said.

Billy Franklin, another city resident, suggested putting the city's sanitation service out for bid to get a better price, then added, "We need to downsize our city like my company has had to do."

When the matter was put to a vote, Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and councilman Tod Warner expressed concern about not raising property taxes. "We will not be able to protect public safety," said Oberholtzer, referring to the harsh reality of probable cuts in the police department.

City pledges $650,000 to Evermore CID intersection project

The council voted to OK spending $650,000 of SPLOST money earmarked for transportation projects for intersection alignment at Cambridge Road and McGee Road. While the original amount CID Board members asked for was $500,000, that amount increased to $700,000 at Monday night's meeting.

The improvements at this intersection will include sidewalks as well as allowing a left turn on U.S. Highway 78 for area residents. Larry Kaiser, who addressed the mayor and council with the financial request, explained the $200,000 difference as being cost increases that have occurred as the project has progressed. Council members, at councilman Robert Jenkins' suggestions, agreed to kick in $650,000 toward the improvements.

The federal government will contribute $356,000; the state will pay $124,000, Gwinnett County will contribute $173,000 and Snellville $650,000. The Evermore CID will contribute $650,000, bringing the total cost of the intersection improvements to $1.95 million.