County commissioners held a workshop meeting on March 30 to receive their first look at the FY 2022 county budget. Discussion about a possible tax increase to hire additional public safety personnel was a main topic.
The proposed one mill tax increase would equate to a tax increase of roughly $65 for a home valued at $200,000, and $105 for a home valued at $300,000. It has not been decided how much of the tax increase would go to each department within public safety.
Public safety includes the police department, fire department, sheriffâ€™s office, E-911, animal control and code enforcement. The departments presently comprise forty-six percent (46%) of the countyâ€™s annual budget.
Following a manpower study in February 2021, Henry County Police Department is 135 officers short of their target staffing. Police Chief Mark Amerman is requesting 25 new positions in the upcoming annual budget.
Two years ago, the board committed funds for twenty new officers. At that time, the cost to hire and train a new officer was $137,000 during the first year of service.
Also on the horizon are staffing needs at police precincts. The SPLOST V program includes funds to build four new police precincts â€” one each in districts 2â€“5. The first precinct is presently under construction off Fairview Road in district V.
In addition, the SPLOST V program includes funds to construct two new fire stations. Personnel for the new stations, to include the addition of a fourth battalion chief, totals thirty people. Previously, the county estimated the staff salaries for these positions at $3.5 million.
Henry County has not set dates to build the new stations, but the county must hire new firefighters in advance. This allows the recruits to complete the training academy before the new stations open. When complete, the new stations 17 and 18 will serve the Ola and Flippen communities.
The county commissioners generally hold budget public hearings in May before voting to adopt the annual budget. Though the board doesnâ€™t set the millage rate until July, items within the county budget affect the rate.
County chair Harrell, Commissioners Wilson and Thomas were in attendance for the budget workshop. The date of the next board update on the county budget is to be announced.
Featured image shows three Henry County fire engines. Photo credit Clayton Carte.