A $50 million budget passed 4-1, with Commissioner Todd Pownall against the motion.
Pownall disagreed with the budget because county employees are budgeted to get raises while still seeing four furlough days this year — down from last year’s seven.
County employees will all receive at least a 2 percent raise, with some sheriff’s officers receiving a 4 percent raise.
“As a small business owner, I think there are certain things that you do,” Pownall said. “I don’t think you can have furlough days and give a raise. I think that order should have been first to get rid of furlough days and then give raises. I hope you understand my vote.”
Pownall later commented that he did not think it was appropriate to promise county employees something during an election year before a budget has been made.
Commissioners also approved increasing the millage rate from the current rate of 7.6 mills to 8.29 mills.
If the commission had decided not to raise the millage rate, they would have collected $1.9 million less than last year because of an 8.63 percent decrease in the value of the tax digest, according to Finance Director Tabitha Pollard.
“This is, again, the millage rates for maintenance and operations of the county,” Pollard told commissioners.
“This brings us to the same collections as last year. The tax digest began declining in ’08, so this allows us to collect the same amount [in tax revenue] as last year.”
The motion passed 4-1, with Pownall against the motion.
Commissioner Tommie Graham said the county collected $4.8 million less in revenue in 2012 than it did in 2008 because of declining property values.
Graham said in 2008, the average market value for homes in Paulding County was $149,000. The average market value for homes now is $76,000.
“We have an overall lost market value of $2.8 billion, which equates to a lost [budget] revenue of $3.6 million per year,” Graham said. “That’s why a $62 million budget has been reduced to a $50 million budget this year.”
Graham went on to say that an increase in millage rates is an extreme need for the county.
“We got in this mess not in one year; it didn’t happen in ’08. But when you have an emergency and you call 911, you want a deputy to come,” Graham said. “When you have holes in your road, you want somebody to come. It takes money to do those things. It’s a needed thing.”
The board also approved an increase in the millage rate for the Fire District.
The millage rate was increased from 2 mills to 3.1 mills. This rollback will bring an additional $3 million in revenue, according to Pollard, bringing it back to where it was in 2008 before the tax digest began decreasing. Without this increase, the county would see a decrease of $500,000 from the fire district millage this year.
“This is based on recommendations from the fire chief and fire advisory board,” Graham said. “This will fund operations of the fire department for the next five years and allow them to hire 21 new firefighters.”