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Fostering an Educated Workforce

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Charlotte Nash, chairman, Gwinnett County Board of CommissionersBy Charlotte J. Nash, Chairman
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

The education theme of the July/August Gwinnett Magazine offers me a chance to clear up a common misconception. Many times I speak with people who don”t realize that Gwinnett County”s outstanding public school system operates entirely separately from the Board of Commissioners.

In fact, the Gwinnett County Board of Education not only controls its own operations and finances, it also has the power to set millage rates for the education portion of your property tax. Starting in 1997, the state legislature began allowing schools to use E-SPLOST programs – a one-cent sales tax for infrastructure improvements.

County government has been using a similar SPLOST program since the mid-1980s to make capital improvements and expand the infrastructure to keep up with a growing population.

Currently, the Gwinnett school system uses the one-cent sales tax to help pay for new classrooms, while County government uses sales tax to fund the road improvements that get you there. By minimizing the need to borrow money for specified projects, these voter-approved sales taxes have saved more than a billion dollars in financing costs compared to issuing bonds.

In a free society, education is vital – not just for children but adults as well. We”re fortunate to have award-winning libraries and many post-secondary institutions nearby, where our residents can learn the skills they”ll need to find a job in our slowly recovering economy. A well-educated workforce encourages relocating or expanding businesses to bring new jobs and investments into our community.

Serving 165,000 students, the public school system is, not surprisingly, the largest employer in Gwinnett. County government comes in second. Last year, we hired 72 firefighters, 64 deputy sheriffs, 53 police officers, and 17 correctional officers to fill vacancies. New employees in the field of public safety in particular need specialized training. That”s why we built state-of-the-art police training facilities and are now expanding our well-respected Fire Academy that houses a nationally accredited paramedic training program.

And for the past 10 years, we”ve offered senior management development training through our in-house EXCEL program (19 graduates last year) and supervisory training through our LEAD academy (64 graduates last year.) In all, we provided 988 hours of classroom training for 2,464 County employees in 2012.

Like many employers, Gwinnett County government offers a tuition reimbursement program that helps develop County employees” knowledge, skills, and abilities by covering most tuition costs, books, and mandatory fees at colleges and universities. Last year, 118 employees shared in this valuable benefit that helps the employer, the employee, and the public we serve.

Our volunteers who share their time and talent often gain practical work experience along the way. Last year, our Volunteer Gwinnett program attracted 41,183 volunteers who donated 991,136 hours. Many of these people helped us stretch our human resources even further while creating great material for their own r##sum##s. Check it out to see how you can get involved at www.volunteergwinnett.net.