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Gwinnett budget proposal up for vote

Gwinnett government employees’ first pay raise in five years could be approved next week.

The 3 percent boost is the highlight of a proposed 2014 spending plan under consideration Tuesday that features the first expected increase in property tax revenues since the Great Recession.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who submitted the $1.5 billion proposal, said she expects to see few changes at Tuesday’s board meeting, as the budget addresses the needs of the community as well as priorities established by the commission last year.

The proposal also tackles increased costs to health care and juvenile justice and adds two new ambulance crews.

“I am particularly excited about the funding of our initiative related to increasing community engagement,” Nash added. “The establishment of the Gwinnett Citizens Academy will add another way for Gwinnett residents to learn about the county and to participate in activities with county government. We will be hiring a community outreach coordinator to help us connect and engage with residents and businesses across the diverse segments that together make up Gwinnett County now. We also anticipate utilizing social media as part of our outreach efforts.”

Commissioner Lynette Howard said the proposal encompasses the county’s needs in a still tight financial environment. But she was glad to find the money for a long-awaited raise for the county’s 4,800 employees.

“The citizens have great county employees working for them. The staff is creative and innovative. They can develop better systems using less resource while still setting the highest standards in their industries,” she said, adding that officials did a good job working with a group of residents to determine the spending plan without impacting tax rates.

“Keeping a tight budget is why we have low taxes for our citizens. Having educated leaders on staff is why we have businesses wanting to move and expand in Gwinnett,” she said.