Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash presented her final proposed budget on Tuesday to guide County spending for the 2021 fiscal year.
The proposed budget for 2021 totals $1.91 billion, up 3.7 percent from the 2020 adopted budget. It consists of a $1.47 billion operating budget and a $441 million capital improvements budget, which includes funds from the County's SPLOST program.
"This budget deals not only with current challenges but also anticipates issues the County will face in the future. It continues Gwinnett's tradition of conservative budgeting based on strategic planning," said Nash. "I believe it provides a good financial foundation for the County as new members of Gwinnett's leadership team step into their roles next year and take responsibility for delivering the superior services our community has come to expect from Gwinnett County."
The continued uncertainty regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the operations of the County led Chairman Nash to work with staff in tightening some aspects of the budget in order to create additional flexibility to respond to these challenges in 2021. In recognition of the many changes in elected leaders across County government, Chairman Nash also chose to provide a reserve fund for initiatives and improvements rather than funding many of the specific requests from departments. This approach will allow the Board of Commissioners to decide which initiatives and improvements they deem most important.
The budget was developed based on six strategic priorities affirmed by the Board of Commissioners during its annual planning session.
After almost a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Safe and Healthy Community goal remains a top priority with funding for continued coronavirus response and additional funding for the Gwinnett Public Health Department. The proposed budget also funds resources for the Situational Awareness and Crime Response Center, 33 new police positions (30 sworn), an expansion at the Police Training Center and improvements to the Fire Academy.
The budget addresses the Mobility and Access priority with funding for transportation projects, many paid for by SPLOST, airport master plan and enhancements to the County's Advanced Traffic Management network designed to reduce traffic congestion and quickly respond to traffic incidents.
For the Livability and Comfort priority, the budget would fund two new parks in areas that are underserved by recreation opportunities, renovate and maintain existing parks, provide funding for the Gwinnett County Public Library system and support the HomeFirst Gwinnett initiative's coordinated approach to addressing homelessness.
To support the Board's Strong and Vibrant Economy priority, funding is included for the new Rowen knowledge community, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center and the new Water Tower water innovation center.
New positions in Elections, Transportation and Information Technology are funded to meet the needs under the Smart and Sustainable Government priority.
Under the Communication and Engagement priority, the budget will fund support for a new Police Community Affairs section, renewed emphasis on recycling and solid waste management and continuation of the Gwinnett 101 Citizens Academy and Gwinnett Youth Commission outreach programs.
Department directors and elected officials presented business plans for 2021 to the Chairman's budget review team earlier this year as part of the budget development process. Those presentations are available for viewing online at www.tvgwinnett.com. Five Gwinnett residents recruited by Chairman Nash reviewed the departmental requests and made recommendations for the budget proposal.
The entire proposed 2021 budget resolution is available online at www.gwinnettcounty.com and as a hard copy in the Financial Services office at GJAC, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Residents can offer input on the budget and its priorities at a public hearing on Dec. 9 and on the County's website through Dec. 31. Commissioners will consider the final budget at their Jan. 5 meeting.