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Gwinnett Facing $30 Million Budget Shortfall

County begins planning for fiscal year 2012.

Updated Sept. 8, 2011.

Gwinnett County had to close a large budget gap in the current fiscal year, and it won't get easier for fiscal year 2012.

County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said Tuesday that budget planners are looking at a revenue shortfall of about $30 million as they plan for the next fiscal year.

Nash cited the continued decline in the Gwinnett tax digest and uncertain funding from the state as factors for the shortfall.

Nash, speaking Tuesday as budget review plans began in Lawrenceville, said that revenue projections are "not hard and fast." Also, planners have to deal with both the operating budget and capital expenditures. "Capital spending is the wild card," Nash said. "It's harder to tie down."

This is Nash's first budget since she was elected earlier this year to replace Charles Bannister. However, she participated in budget planning as the county's operations director before retiring in 2004.

"The process has not changed," she said. "Public access is different. It's more user-friendly," she noted, citing Internet access to the budget and viewing via the county's cable TV channel.

Various county departments will be making their proposals through next week. The full commissioners will get the formal budget in November, and it is expected to be adopted in January. A public hearing will be held.

Among Tuesday's highlights:

-- Tax Commissioner Richard Steele, the county's chief bill collector, requested an $11.1 million budget. He said his office collected about $1.1 billion in 2010.

-- The Clerk of Courts office is seeking a budget of $18.3 million, a slight increase. It wants an additional staffer for the Board of Equalization, which handles property tax appeals and hearings. Those have increased markedly in the past year in the county.

-- The Juvenile Court considers its at-risk youth figure to be about 165,000 -- the approximate enrollment of the Gwinnett public school system. That therefore makes it the largest at-risk youth figure in Georgia.

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