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Budget hearings illustrate Limestone growth

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — Limestone County’s growth was evident in the budget requests county leaders received Wednesday.

The County Commission is holding budget hearings this month for fiscal 2008.

Revenue Commissioner Brian Patterson, for example, is asking for an additional employee to handle the demand in his office because there is more land development in the county. Patterson is seeking $453,321 from the commission, up from $437,331 last year.

Patterson said that between 2000 and 2007, the number of land parcels in Limestone County increased by more than 7,000.

Patterson said Limestone was at 39,000 parcels in 2000. By 2007, that number had increased to 46,648.

The property tax generated from those parcels increased from $8.9 million in 2000 to $18.6 million in 2007.

Not all the growth is in the eastern part of the county, Patterson said.

“Yes, the east side is growing, but we also have new subdivisions in western Athens and developments on the river,” Patterson said.

Gated communities, including condominiums, on the Elk River, and to the west in Athens, are under development.

Demand at library

That growth also is putting more demand on the Athens-Limestone Public Library, Head Librarian Susan Todd told the commission.

She said library visits increased by 16 percent last year, while adult program attendance had a 94 percent increase. Attendance for children’s programs went from 1,418 children for the year in fiscal 2005 to 3,089 in fiscal 2007.

“The public needs more professional help,” she said.

Net, DVDs

Users want to find reliable Internet sites for research and help doing job searches.

She said the public also is demanding DVDs and audio books.

Todd said the library has not always received all of its requested allocation, so she makes budget cuts in material purchases.

“People who travel to jobs in Huntsville want to listen to those audio books,” Todd said.

“We are struggling to add to our collection and replace older material.”

Todd told the commission that its investment in the library has helped save the public money.

She said students who found their required summer reading books at the library this year saved their parents $49,521 because their parents didn’t have to buy those books.

The library seeks $127,933 from the county and will ask the same of the Athens City Council.

The county gave the library $71,500 in fiscal 2007.

Other requests

Other agencies that made requests Wednesday were:

Appraisal — $1,013,391, which includes laptops and software to let citizens pay taxes online.

Archives — $143,160, which includes tables and chairs.

Coroner — $82,030, which includes adding a sport utility vehicle or truck to pull the mass disaster trailer.

Engineering — $1,220,089, which includes requests for a patch truck, chip spreader and office furniture.

License commissioner — $653,893, which includes adding an administrative clerk.

Revenue enhancement — $167,676, which includes adding a sport utility vehicle.

Budget hearings will continue Monday at 9 a.m. at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex and Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. at the Washington Street Courthouse Annex.

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