Gwinnett’s proposed 2018 budget includes money for more cops, firefighters

Nov 28, 2017
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The newly proposed logo and slogan for Gwinnett County. VIA PERKINS+WILL/GWINNETT COUNTY

The head of Gwinnett’s county commission is proposing a 2018 budget of roughly $1.67 billion — a figure that’s nearly 9 percent higher than this year.

Nearly a third of that increase would be used cover raises and other bumps in compensation and benefits for county employees. The budget proposal presented Tuesday morning by Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash and county CFO Maria Woods would also include funding for 152 new positions throughout the county government. 

Many of those positions would go to the police and fire departments.

In October, Nash and her commission colleagues approved a resolution that gave a 3 percent pay raise to all county employees — in addition to a 4 percent increase also offered to sworn employees of the county police department, sheriff’s office, department of corrections and 911 center.

The budget proposed Tuesday would extend those raises through 2018.

Of the 151 positions proposed, 66 would go to the Gwinnett County Police Department. Thirty-six of those would help staff a new precinct planned for the Bay Creek area near Grayson and Loganville.

The other 30 new officers would likely be distributed throughout the community, Nash said.

Gwinnett’s police department has had problems hiring and retaining officers in recent years, but officials believe recent efforts like pay raises and more aggressive recruiting have stemmed the tide of attrition.

“I think the things we’re doing are helping,” Woods said.

Gwinnett police have not identified or arrested suspects yet, and they are hoping the public can help them.

Nash’s proposed budget also would create 36 new positions in the fire department. Those would include staffing for new medical units at two fire stations. Station 27 (2825 Old Fountain Road in Dacula) and Station 30 (1052 Ozora Road in Loganville) are the only ones in the county that do not currently have their own medical units.

A new ladder truck unit would also be staffed at Station 10 near the Mall of Georgia.

The new positions would not reduce the use of overtime throughout the fire department, Nash said. The department’s overtime rules — which are necessitated by the county’s push to make all personnel certified medics and the subsequent delay in getting recruits through training — have drawn criticism in recent weeks.

Under Nash’s budget, new positions would also be created in the county’s community services; planning and development; water and sewer; and IT departments. Many of those positions were lost during the Great Recession, Woods said.

Included in the budget are also four new positions in the county’s elections office that Nash said would be geared specifically toward helping the county comply with a new federal mandate to offer Spanish-language voting materials and assistance to constituents.

“We’ve got to comply with the additional requirements,” Nash said.

Overall, Nash’s proposed 2018 budget would mark an 8.6 percent increase from the county’s 2017 budget of $1.564 million. That budget marked more than a 5 percent increase from 2016.

The county’s annual budget is based largely on requests and recommendations made by department heads during a series of presentations held each fall. The budget is typically voted on during the county commission’s first meeting in January. 

A public hearing on Nash’s proposal is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday. It will be held in the auditorium of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

Comments will also be accepted online through Dec. 31.

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