The most difficult issue was the proposed property tax increase, which was .7 mills at the beginning of the meeting and .8 mills at the end.
Spalding County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Gwen Flowers-Taylor said the commissioners were treating the additional tenth of a mill - brought about by the return of the $180,000 contribution to the airport relocation study to the budget - as though it were nothing.
She said an alternative to increasing taxes would be to reduce the pay of employees. She said a $25 reduction in pay is no small thing, but a tax increase would be much worse. She said the employees would not mind furloughs either.
The first reading of the proposed budget will be on June 15; the second and final reading will be on June 25 at 5:45 p.m.
Chairman Eddie Goss said he promised his constituents he would never vote for a tax increase and he intended to keep his promise. Flowers-Taylor and Goss voted against restoring the airport funding to the budget.
Residents who attended the meeting also spoke out against the tax increase. Regina Abbott said she knows people who live on fixed incomes - including herself, since she has not received a raise in years - would be adversely affected by a tax increase. Jesse Maddox, a county employee, said he could withstand a furlough better than his family could withstand a property tax increase.
The airport contribution was originally not part of the fiscal year 2010 budget. Carl Pruett, a county representative on the airport advisory board, said the existing airport requires $330,000 in city and county subsidies to run. It is too small to sustain itself but closing it altogether would require paying the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) $33 million.
After Pruett and others spoke, Commissioner Bob Gilreath said he changed his mind and would support putting the $180,000 back in the budget. Commissioner Dave Phillips supported the measure as well, even though County Manager William Wilson Jr. said it would mean an additional .1 mill for the tax increase.
The commissioners voted 3-2 to restore airport funding.
Gilreath took issue with the county spending $17,500 to help fund a continuing-education position at the University of Georgia-Griffin campus. He said the money could be better spent promoting other aspects of Spalding County.
Flowers-Taylor defended the continuing education program.
“I think it has a great educational value to the community,” she said.
Gilreath said the continuing education department would survive even without the $17,500.
Phillips recommended the money be left in the budget for the 2010 fiscal year and the matter be revisited next year. The commissioners voted 4-1 to continue funding the position, with Gilreath dissenting.