Gwinnett to pick citizen budget panel
Group of resident representatives to discuss county's funding crisis

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett residents can get "engaged" next week, as a six-month citizen participation exercise gets under way.

The initial meeting for Engage Gwinnett, a study to share ideas about the county's budget crisis, will be held Wednesday, and officials hope residents can self-select among the attendees for the "Citizens Committee for the Future of Gwinnett County."

In addition to the 10 members selected from the meeting, which will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, officials have asked 30 stakeholder groups to appoint a citizen representative for the group.

"Like most local governments around our region and our nation, Gwinnett must balance declining revenues with desired service levels," said Commission Chairman Charles Bannister, who partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to launch the study. "We need informed recommendations from people throughout our community."

Over the next six months, the group is tasked with studying information about county government, demographics and economic trends to help guide commissioners as they make decisions about county services and funding levels. The move comes after a decision to not raise county taxes led to decisions to cut 250 jobs, cut library and pool hours and allow new fire stations to sit empty.

"Every citizen in the county has a stake in the direction and the environment we're creating for future generations," said Mike Levengood, an attorney who is co-chairing the study. "We'll be holding several public forums during this citizen-led initiative to share and gain ideas from the community at large. This is an opportunity for many people to get involved before the decisions are made. It is a worthy community project and Gwinnett citizens deserve our best efforts."

Bill McCargo, who is also co-chairing the group, added: "We plan to strategically involve the community in the process of making informed recommendations about future service levels, funding needs and revenue resources. Together, we'll identify what services the county should provide and at what level. We'll also look at growth projections and infrastructure plans to help determine funding needs and potential revenue sources."

More information is available at www.gwinnettcounty.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Engage Gwinnett public selection meeting

· When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

· Where: Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville