December 8, 2012

Dalton officials to release 2013 budget next week

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— Dalton officials are putting the final touches on the 2013 budget and expect to have it ready to unveil next week.

“In terms of the general fund budget, things won’t look much different from this year,” Dalton Mayor David Pennington said. “The general fund budget is approximately $26 million, and we expect it will be about that next year, maybe a little bit more.”

Public safety accounts for about half of the current budget, with the police department budget coming in at some $6.6 million and the fire department budget coming in at about $6.9 million.

One new item officials expect to include in the 2013 budget is funding for a new officer at the Dalton Police Department to focus on building code enforcement.

“That will cost about $50,000,” said Pennington. “This will be a sworn police officer who can also do police work if needed.”

The City Council earlier this year put forth the “Carpet Capital Makeover Plan” aimed at keeping abandoned and foreclosed buildings from becoming neighborhood blights.

Part of the plan calls for the police department to step up its code enforcement efforts. The city merged its building inspection and code enforcement with that of Whitfield County four years ago.

Council members said they weren’t unhappy with how building inspections have turned out. But they wanted to see a more aggressive and proactive enforcement of code violations.

City officials are also looking at a capital budget of $2 million to $2.5 million, which will include a new fire engine, new vehicles and equipment for public works, and replacing the multipurpose field at Lakeshore Park.

“This budget will also include our sixth straight year of cutting the property tax rate,” Pennington said. “We won’t know how large until we see how the budget performs. But right now, we are looking at cutting another 5 percent, if not more.”

Council members are legally required to have one public hearing on the budget before voting on it.

“We probably won’t have time to squeeze the public hearing in before out final regular meeting of the month (on Dec. 17), so we will probably have to have a called meeting for the vote,” Pennington said.