Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash asked every resident and business owner in Gwinnett “to be informed, to get involved, and to stay in touch”# with county government this year. Her remarks came in# the annual State of the County address to community and business leaders, recently hosted by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Quality Growth.
“From the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to wrongdoing by now-former commissioners, Gwinnett has taken hard hits over the last few years,”# she said. She pointed to a tax digest that declined four years in a row and is now at the 2005 level. Sales tax revenues dropped from $13 million in 2006 to less than $10 million in 2009 but rose last year to $11.6 million.
Nash said SPLOST programs have raised more than two billion dollars for pay-as-you-go capital improvements in Gwinnett since 1985, saving more than a billion in financing costs compared to issuing bonds. She said to keep an eye out for details on the next SPLOST referendum likely to go before voters in November.
“We must aggressively pursue economic development,” she said, praising the “well-organized and effective approach of Partnership Gwinnett, a collaborative effort across many segments of the community.”# She said public funding for economic development this year will be clearly segregated for transparency through a new nonprofit corporation.
She said the county will focus this year on critical issues that include: re-building public trust, managing in a difficult economy, planning for the next SPLOST referendum, pursuing economic development, protecting water resources, and updating the comprehensive 2030 Unified Plan.
The speech contained a quick review of 2012 accomplishments and emphasized a revised ethics ordinance, a strict land-acquisition policy, expanded transparency, funding a senior investigator to focus on potential corruption, and more accessibility through town hall meetings, listening sessions, and technology.
Calling this year”s balanced budget the toughest of her long career, she predicted that “most property owners will see a modest tax increase related to public safety funding, but those who live in a city with its own police department will see a reduced rate”# as a result of the recent service-delivery agreement with Gwinnett”s 16 cities. The Board will set millage rates next summer after property assessments and appeals are completed in the spring.
Nash said, “Gwinnett”s story has been filled with ups and downs and plot twists. The last few chapters were painful, and a few characters have been removed. But overall Gwinnett”s story is a tale of success and a testament to those who made it happen.”# She said 2013 marks a turning point and asked the audience to join her in shaping Gwinnett”s next chapter.
Video of the entire speech is available on demand at www.tvgwinnett.com and it will air frequently on the county”s government access cable channel beginning at 8 p.m. Friday.
The State of the County 2013 speech and a handout about the previous year”s highlights are available at www.gwinnettcounty.com.