LAWRENCEVILLE -- Commissioners approved a balanced $1.3 billion budget for 2012, incorporating another $5 million in cuts to get Gwinnett out of the red.
The spending plan is a decrease of 2.5 percent in operating funds and more than 27 percent in capital funds.
"It was what a lot of families and businesses have been doing the past few years, prioritizing their needs," said Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who formulated her first budget in elected office after working through the county process for years as a staffer. "We thought it was very important to balance the budget without the use of fund balance."
While forestalling any major service changes, the 2012 budget means the county will wait another year to hire 25 police officers and 25 firefighters.
Making the final $5 million in cuts to balance the spending plan, commissioners agreed to take some money out of contingencies and fleet funds, which means cars will be driven longer. Money was also found through a policy to keep positions vacant for 90 days, a decrease to an inmate medical contract and through a delay from the state in sending out new license plates.
"In lean times, it's not easy to have a budget that people are supportive of, given the choices we had to make," said Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, pointing out that the spending plan takes into account another potential 8 percent reduction of the county's tax digest due to dropping property values.
The leaders were complimentary of department directors who found ways to trim their spending due to the down economy.
"It's hard to say I'm going to live without," Commissioner Shirley Lasseter said. "I do commend all the departments for scrutinizing their budgets as hard as they have."