Dalton, Whitfield County plan to adopt 2022 budgets in December

Members of the Dalton City Council and the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners are still working to finalize the 2022 budgets. Officials say they expect to present draft proposals to the public before the end of November or in early December.

"The (city) department heads are still working on the budget," said city Communications Director Bruce Frazier. 

City Administrator Andrew Parker said Thursday he expects the city will hold a budget hearing and unveil a draft budget at the Monday, Dec. 6, City Council meeting.

The city's 2021 budget is $34.4 million.

The Board of Commissioners held five sessions, open to the public, in late October and early November when department heads and constitutional officers presented their 2022 budget requests.

"Right now, we are consolidating all those budgets, and we hope to have it approved by our meeting (on Monday, Dec. 13)," said board Chairman Jevin Jensen. "We will present the consolidated budget in a meeting prior to next month's meeting." 

Commissioners and council members both said inflation is complicating their budget planning.

The consumer price index surged 6.2% from a year ago in October, the most since December 1990. Core inflation, which removes food and energy, increased 4.6%, the fastest gain since August 1991.

"Oh, it's definitely going to have an impact," said Dalton Mayor David Pennington. "The price of everything we buy is going up."

Wages are also growing. Average national wages grew 1.5% in the third quarter. City Council members said that's also putting pressure on the budget.

"We aren't just competing against other governments for employees," said council member Gary Crews. "For example, we hire truck drivers. They have to have a CDL (commercial driver's license). Well, there's a shortage of CDL truck drivers, so the pay is going up. If you've got a CDL, it's a golden ticket."

Pennington said he expects the 2022 city budget will contain a "pretty significant" pay increase for city employees though he said City Council members haven't decided on an exact number.

County commissioner Greg Jones said he expects county employees will also receive a pay increase in the county's 2022 budget.

"We've got to retain our current employees and attract new ones," he said. "We know the city is going to give a big pay increase. The private sector has been increasing pay. There's a lot of competition out there now. We've got to keep up."

Jensen said county residents don't have to wait for the formal budget hearings to provide input.

"If there's a service that you wish we were providing that we are not providing to the citizens or there's something we are doing that you think we don't need to be doing anymore, that there's no benefit to the citizens, let us know," he said.

The county's 2021 budget is $51 million.

Contact information for Dalton City Council members can be found at www.daltonga.gov/citycouncil.

Contact information for the county commissioners can be found at www.whitfieldcountyga.com/boc/administration.htm.

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