Dalton City Council to hold hearing on $35.252 million budget on Monday; property tax rate expected to remain the same

Dalton residents will have their first opportunity to see the city's proposed 2020 budget on Monday.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. at City Hall. They will not vote on the budget then, but are expected to vote on it at their regular meeting on Dec. 16, which will also be at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The proposed budget calls for $35.252 million in spending, up 1.53% from the $34.72 million in spending in this year's budget.

"The budget contains a COLA (cost-of-living adjustment for city employees) of 3%," said Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson. "That's $671,000."

Jackson said that is in the range that will be offered by the entities that the city benchmarks itself by: Catoosa County, Dalton Utilities and the city of Rome.

Employees also got a 3% COLA this year.

The proposed budget contains two new positions: a project manager who will cost some $81,000 and a new school resource officer (SRO) that will cost some $82,000. Dalton Public Schools will reimburse the city 75% of the cost of the SRO.

That would take the number of SROs approved for the school system to six from five.

The city's share of health insurance costs is projected to rise about $64,000 from an estimated $2.206 million this year.

The line item for general government — buildings would decrease to $248,500 in 2020 from $768,610 this year. That line item surged this year by $500,000 from 2018 to fund the repair of the roof at City Hall. That project is finished.

The budget anticipates that the city's property tax rate will be held steady at 2.418 mills.

The city also plans $15 million in capital spending in 2020, which will be funded from a bond to be issued next year. The projects that would be funded include:

• Replacement of the John Davis Recreation Center: $8.75 million

• Heavy rescue truck for the Dalton Fire Department: $1.5 million

• Trail to connect Haig Mill Lake Park to downtown Dalton: $1.5 million

• Ten new hangars for the Dalton Municipal Airport: $1.1 million

• Ladder truck for the fire department: $1.1 million

• Restroom facility for the Burr Performing Arts Park: $550,000

• Roof replacement of Fire Station 1, at 404 School St.: $500,000

City officials plan to reimburse the city for the new recreation center and the trucks for the fire department from its share of a planned 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) if it is approved by voters next year. The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners plans to place a referendum on the ballot in the May 2020 general primary. The rec center and one of the fire trucks were part of a list of city projects recommended by a citizens advisory group that was formed to guide local governments on what projects the SPLOST should fund.

Officials from Dalton and the cities of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell are scheduled to meet with the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the fifth-floor meeting room of the Wells Fargo building, 201 S. Hamilton St., Dalton, where they will present their SPLOST requests. Commissioners need to send a resolution to the county elections office by Jan. 14 to have the referendum on the May general primary ballot.

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