Officials wait on decision to fill budget gap

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In a meeting Tuesday, in which a woman pleaded for help in freeing child support checks, county officials waited on a decision to fill a budget gap.

With two of five commissioners absent, board members tabled a decision on the 2010 budget's mid-year reconciliation, which would have transferred $18 million of the money from a special March tax billing to balance the spending plan.

"We have to" use the money from the 2009 tax increase bills to fill the budget gap, Chairman Charles Bannister said. But he said the decision was too important to consider without the full board.

The budget reconciliation would place the county's operating budget over $1 billion for the first time, but that is because of an added line item to deal with the county trash plan, where people are paying for 18 months of service through tax bills.

The general fund, on the other hand, will decrease by 4.9 percent because of a 9 percent dip in the county's tax digest due to declining property values. The special tax billing will stave off major service cuts this year, but Finance Director Aaron Bovos said officials must make up for a $31 million budget gap in 2011.

At the end of Tuesday's session, Loganville woman Michelle Turner said county funding cuts have caused a family member to suffer because staffers in the clerk of court office aren't able to keep up with their workload on garnishments.

While checks must be held for 19 days, Turner said her family member has been waiting for a child support check for 50 days.

"This is putting a hardship on families and children," she said. "I know the financial hard times are why it's getting worse. ... They need the funds necessary for staffing and process automation."