County residents will get no property tax increase this year courtesy of the Fayette County Commission.
The commission formally adopted a $46.7 million budget June 26 which includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all employees and another 2 percent one-time pay incentive for employees if their department meets budgeting guidelines and they are otherwise eligible.
During public comment on the budget, north Fayette resident Alice Jones encouraged the commission to find funding for the second and third phases of Kenwood Park off Ga. Highway 279 in north Fayette County.
Jones said “nothing has been done for years” on expanding the park and she suggested the county look into building an aquatic center there.
Jones suggested the county try and build a partnership for funding with a local resident who now plays in the National Football League.
“We want to move forward with this project,” Jones said, adding that she hoped to inspect the county’s budget documents online at a later date to see where the county’s money is being spent.
Jones also noted that an erosion problem has developed at Kenwood Park that needs attention, and Commissioner Allen McCarty noted that he had planned to take his grandson to the park to play there recently, but they had to go elsewhere because the erosion was so bad.
County Administrator Steve Rapson said there was about $300,000 in the budget to address the erosion problem at Kenwood Park and another $25,000 to improve grass cutting at the park.
Rapson encouraged Jones to meet with the county’s volunteer recreation commission in terms of moving forward on the second and third phases of the park.
The other resident who addressed the commission about the budget was Emory McHugh, who criticized specific details of how the county accounted for its finances in the budget.
McHugh, a former employee of the county’s finance department who was fired earlier this year, has shared similar criticism at a number of other commission meetings. A short time later, Rapson noted that while the county has made changes in its financial reporting due to some of McHugh’s concerns, the fact that the county’s finance staff continues to win awards for its work speaks for itself.
The pay raise in the budget is a cost of living increase. The COLA will cost $707,000 and would be the first such salary bump county employees have received since 2008, according to County Administrator Steve Rapson.
The budget as approved would not dip into the county’s cash reserves (also known as fund balance), but instead is projected to add to them by about $500,000, Rapson said. The budget also includes $5.8 million in capital projects, among which is $1.5 million to refurbish the “old jail” facility so jail personnel can spread out the classifications of current inmates as necessary along with improving jail capacity at the same time, Rapson said.
There is also $297,000 set aside to rehabilitate the exterior of the county’s historic courthouse in downtown Fayetteville and another $150,000 for a “splash pad” addition to McCurry Park east of the city.
The budget was approved unanimously, but Commissioner Allen McCarty said he wished the county could “defund” about $25,000 set aside to purchase fluoride that is infused into the county’s drinking water.
“It’s not a lot of money, approximately $25,000, to put poison in our county water,” McCarty said, reading from a tube of fluoride toothpaste that said if a quantity more than used for tooth brushing is accidentally swallowed “to get medical help or contact poison control right away.”
McCarty said the state of Georgia mandates that fluoride be added to drinking water, but he thinks the fluoride in toothpaste should be good enough for residents without adding it to the water supply.