Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash asked every resident and business owner in Gwinnett “to be informed, to get involved, and to stay in touch” with county government this year in her State of the County Address Wednesday (Jan. 16) at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
The sold-out event was hosted by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Quality Growth.
“From the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to wrongdoing by now-former commissioners, Gwinnett has taken hard hits over the last few years,” Nash said. She pointed to a tax digest that declined four years in a row and is now at the 2005 level. Sales tax revenues dropped from $13 million in 2006 to less than $10 million in 2009, but rose last year to $11.6 million, she said.
SPLOST programs have raised more than $2 billion for “pay as you go” capital improvements in the county since 1985, saving more than a billion in financing costs compared to issuing bonds, according to Nash. Another SPLOST referendum is likely to go before voters in November, she said.
Nash emphasized that the county must aggressively pursue economic development and praised Partnership Gwinnett for its well-organized and effective approach to it. She added that public funding for economic development this year will be clearly segregated for transparency through a new non-profit corporation.
Gwinnett will focus this year on critical issues that include re-building public trust, managing in a difficult economy, planning for the next SPLOST referendum, pursuing economic development, protecting water resources, and updating the comprehensive 2030 Unified Plan, Nash said.
Her speech contained a quick review of 2012 accomplishments that included a revised ethics ordinance, a strict land-acquisition policy, expanded transparency, funding a senior investigator to look into corruption, and improved accessibility through town hall meetings, listening sessions, and technology.
Referring to this year’s balanced budget as the toughest of her long career, she predicted that “most property owners will see a modest tax increase related to public safety funding, but those who live in a city with its own police department will see a reduced rate” as a result of the service-delivery agreement with Gwinnett’s 16 cities.
The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners will set millage rates next summer after property assessments and appeals are completed in the spring.
During her 27-year career with Gwinnett County, Charlotte Nash worked as a grants manager/accountant, budget manager, finance director/chief financial officer and county administrator. She managed 24 annual budgets and implemented capital budgeting and long-term financial planning processes. She has served as commission chairman since March 2011.
“Gwinnett’s story has been filled with ups and downs and plot twists,” Nash said. “The last few chapters were painful, and a few characters have been removed. But overall Gwinnett’s story is a tale of success and a testament to those who made it happen.” She said 2013 marks a turning point and asked the audience to join her in shaping Gwinnett’s next chapter.
“With a continued commitment to pursuing economic development and job creation efforts, Chairman Nash’s report gave a promising outlook for the business community,” said Philip R. Wolfe, Gwinnett Chamber chairman and Gwinnett Medical Center president and CEO. “We were pleased to host Chairman Nash and the Board of Commissioners and we look forward to working together to keep Gwinnett moving forward.”
“Gwinnett County continues to be a leader in infrastructure development, quality of life and economic development. We look forward to working with Chairman Nash as she leads Gwinnett through a robust and prosperous 2013,” said Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth.
The speech will air frequently on the county’s government access cable channel beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18.
(Editor's note: Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce provided information for this article).