LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's cities will soon bolster their coffers with cash from the county, as a deadline for a pay out in the service delivery dispute agreement nears.
Officials recently turned over to the county government information dividing the more than $30 million between 15 cities. The allocations include one-time payments for several services, which city officials agreed to wait a year to divide into new districts, which will give city residents a break on county taxes. Cities with police forces will receive payments for seven years, according to the settlement reached in February after three years in court.
"It's money that we were expecting to get because of the double taxation," said Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris, the current chairwoman of the Gwinnett Municipal Association, a coalition of the city governments. "It's a negotiated agreement that we all agreed on."
While numbers were negotiated separately with the city of Lilburn, Harris said the amount allocated to the remaining 14 cities was based on population.
Gwinnett Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said at the time of the agreement that the payments were agreed upon so the county could have more time to implement the new service districts."My major focus now related to the SDS settlement is ensuring we meet the requirements and time schedule contained in the consent order and the associated intergovernmental agreements," she said this week. "We made the hard decisions during the settlement negotiations. We agreed to make certain payments because we had to do so in order to obtain agreement from the cities to settle the lawsuit. Before agreeing to the payments, we determined the availability of funds to cover the payments. Making the payments now is simply doing what we said we would do. ...
"The distribution of the payments was addressed in the consent order, too. For all cities other than Lilburn, the cities themselves were granted the right to determine how to distribute the payments among themselves. We at the county are not second-guessing the cities' allocation decisions; we will just make sure that everything is in line with the consent order.
Harris said the money will help the cities with some projects that may have been delayed due to the economy.
While each city council will make its own decision on how to spend it, she said officials in Duluth are now integrating its portion into its budget process.
"We're looking at our wish list of things we've been wanting to accomplish," Harris said, adding that a portion of the money will go toward paying of the city's legal fees for the service delivery issue. Other possibilities include the replacement of weather sirens, paving a parking lot at Bunten Road Park and needed equipment for the public works department, including a mower and a bobcat.
"We can certainly put the money to good use," she said.