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Commission chairman discusses growth, county issues
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Nevil county

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    He's lived in Bulloch County all his life, but Bulloch County Commissioner Garrett Nevil told Statesboro Kiwanis club members Thursday he has learned a great deal he didn't know about the county since he took office.
    "It has been educational and fascinating to me," he said.
    Speaking about the county's growth, upcoming and current projects, and other issues, Nevil invited citizens to visit the Bulloch County Annex and feel free to ask questions.
    "Our doors are always open and our records are always public," he said. "It's your tax dollars, and mine, too."
    Speaking about growth in Bulloch County, Nevil said there has been a 30 percent increase in population over the past decade, with over 61,000 people living here, and over 500 new homes  built last year.
    "We're in a growth stage, and I can't see us stopping," he said, adding that many newcomers work either at Georgia Southern University, East Georgia Regional Medical Center, or are retirees.
    The quality of life and its attractions are what draws people to Bulloch, he said.
    However, what will happen to the quality of life with an influx of people coming in?
    "The question is, what can we do to manage the growth?" he said.
    The commission has been labeled as being against residential growth, but that isn't true, he said. "We're not anti-residential development, but I'm throwing you the facts."
    The facts are that residential development costs the county, while industrial and agricultural business brings in revenue, Nevil said.
    Farmland and industrial property bring in "30 to 50 cents for every dollar spent" while residential development costs $1.15 to $1.50 for every dollar brought in, he said.
    Nevil spoke about several other issues, including county projects that use county inmate labor.
    Inmate labor from the Bulloch County Correctional Institute costs $1.37 an hour, making it " a valuable labor source, which helps us out with our budget and expenses," he said.
@Subhead:County projects, budget
@Bodycopy:    Nevil broke down the county's annual budget of $25,750 million, telling club members a whopping 49 percent goes to public safety - EMS, 911, the animal shelter and humane enforcement, fire protection, and the sheriff's department.
    Solid waste, roads and bridges, and cleanup crews garner 16 percent of the budget, while eight percent goes to county staff, support personnel, and divisions such as the tax assessor's office.
    The county judicial system gets 11 percent; recreation and culture (library services) gets 10 percent, he said. Planning and Zoning receives three percent of the budget, while debt services gets two percent and health and welfare receives the remaining one percent.
    Nevil praised the county's millage rate of 19.17, the "eighth lowest in the state, which is very commendable... something to be proud of ... a challenge for us to protect."
    Nevil said efforts are being made to keep the millage rate low, although the county is 'spending more money than we're taking in."
    This year the county will be dipping into a "rainy day fund balance" to the tune of $2 million, and that can't become a habit, he said. "We've got to do some serious thinking and changing."
    County leaders are looking at other ways if increasing revenues instead of raising property taxes, he said. Spending has been cut in some areas, but with things that are necessary, such as courthouse security and the rising number if jail inmates, cutting isn't an option.
    Several projects the county has done and plans to start are not funded by the budget, but by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOST), he said.
    SPLOST funds built the new Georgia State Patrol post, the new Public Works building adjacent to the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department and Bulloch County Correctional Institute, a new hangar and runway at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport, and is funding Magistrate court renovations and water and sewer work at Gateway Industrial park.
    It is also expected to fund the $12 million Bulloch County Jail expansion, already underway, and the proposed agricultural arena at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture on Langston Chapel Road.
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