Finance decisions dominate BOE’s July Meeting

News

ELLIJAY, GA. – Casting the final vote for the coming ESPLOST, alongside votes on bids and lunch prices, set the theme for the Board of Education’s last regular meeting before school starts back.

As previously reported in last week’s BOE to call for an ESPLOST Election, the survey results were provided to board member along with the choices for the final item on the list of projects. While Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reiterated that the priorities of the new ESPLOST will remain with the continuing technology, security, safety, and bus purchases, this sets two major projects into Gilmer County’s Educational future.

Those projects take up two of the five items as set on the official ballot question which reads as:

(a) upgrading the technology used to support teaching and learning at all facilities, including the purchase and
installation of computers, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, servers, wiring, wireless antennas, and other technology upgrades with necessary hardware, software, and programs; (b) the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of safety and security equipment to improve security in all facilities located within the School District (c) the purchase of new school buses; (d) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new elementaryschool to replace the current Ellijay Primary School; and (e) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new performing/fine arts center, all in accordance with the facilities plans of the School District…

The official resolution was approved in a 4-1 vote with board member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. With earlier disagreements on which final project was to be implemented and the polled decision leaning towards the Performing Arts Center, this vote count was not entirely unexpected as the board’s poll on the project inclusion was a mirror outcome.

Moving forward with the ESPLOST at this point will see the Board of Education formally submitting their Notice of Sales and Use Tax For Educational Purposes Election to Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain, as Election Superintendent, to have the referendum voted on by the public in the November 2018 elections. Citizens will take this opportunity to voice their opinions on the ESPLOST and decide on the continuing the already in place ESPLOST for another cycle with its new projects.

Financially, the board is estimating $28 million in collections but is aiming high so as not to have an interruption in collections during the cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finance discussions continued through the meeting during the board’s nutrition and financial reports. The board voted unanimously to support a recommendation by Director of Nutrition Services Linda Waters to increase staff lunch prices from $3.50 to $3.75 and visitor lunches from $4.00 to $4.25. The quarter increases on each of these follow federal regulations which Waters’ recent changes to menus. She stated in the work session, “By Federal Regulations, we have to charge what it costs us to produce a meal.”

Additionally, the July meeting saw the board vote to approve fuel bids for the year. They awarded Petroleum Traders Corp the bid for diesel and gasoline at $0.0315 over costs of diesel and $0.0196 over costs of gasoline. They also awarded Thomas Oil for Propane at $0.95 per gallon.

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BOE to call for an ESPLOST election

Election, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has debated their plans for the future of Gilmer’s ESPLOST. Debating about the final item in plans for construction as well as bonding projects for the coming cycle.

While no official motion could be heard for the item as it was only the Board’s work session, the did take time to debate the issue with one member having to conference call in to join the discussion. Three major points of the plans to continue the county’s ESPLOST into another cycle were agreed to during the meeting.

With the results from the survey put forth by Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the clear winner within the community became a Performing Arts Center.

Collecting more votes than the other two options combined, the Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus) reached 1,069 votes. The multi-use Sports Facility collected 684 votes and the Indoor Swimming Pool collected 282 votes.

Downs presented this information to the Board on Monday, July 17, along with the three options for a final decision by the Board as a whole on which item to add to the ESPLOST referendum.

As the members considered the option, most agreed that they wanted to follow the survey.  Board member Jim Parmer said, “People have had a choice in making a decision and voting. I think we need to be open and transparent if that’s what they want.”

The only member who didn’t agree on the Performing Arts Center was Nick Weaver who said, “There was a lot of money spent the wrong ways before I got here, on the football stadium and everything else, and I think there’s a sports program out there that deserves and earned things and they’ve not gotten anything.”

An informal poll of the board went for the Arts Center with on Weaver as a dissenting vote. However, the final motion and decision will be made on Thursday, July 19, at 6 p.m. during their Regular Session meeting. The final vote will come on a final resolution drafted by the board’s attorney to include this as well as bonding and collection caps.

Those other items were also discussed during the work session as the board will be looking to bond the project for a new Elementary School on the board’s Clear Creek property. The board indicated this project would be bonded while all of the other projects will be done as collections reach the necessary point for them. A maximum bonding of $15 million was placed, but Downs noted they could lower this later if the entire amount was not needed.

The collection cap is an indication of the maximum amount collected by the ESPLOST during its cycle. Downs noted for the board that if they do not meet the maximum collection, there is no penalty, but if they do meet the maximum collection before the end of the cycle, they will be forced to stop collections early. Originally planning on a maximum of $25 million, the board discussion looked at the county’s growth and decided to stretch the maximum collection to $28 million to cover the potential for high growth in the county over the ESPLOST cycle.

As the board put these notes to its lawyer, Attorney Herman Clark, they will be officially looking at their official “Call for Election” on Thursday night to meet an early August deadline to be put on the November ballot for citizens.

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BOE Awarded for second year of Excellence in Financial Audit

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has received an award from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts for Excellence in its Financial Audit for the second year.

The press release for the award states:

The Gilmer County Board of Education earned the” Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting ” issued by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts for FY 2017. This award was established to recognize excellence in financial reporting and controls. It encourages governmental organizations to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and recognizes individual organizations that are successful in achieving this goal.

Trina Penland, Gilmer BOE Director of Finance

Trina Penland, Gilmer BOE Director of Finance

Though the Board receives the award as the reporting entity, they lay the recognition at the feet of Chief Financial Officer Trina Penland and the finance staff who manage the preparations and reporting for the Board.

According to Mary Dilbeck of the Department of Audits and Accounts, they delivered only 32 of these awards out of the 159 entities they do the audits for, stating the rest are covered by CPA firms. The award showcases a reporting excellence recognized by the state agency. However, it was also noted that many entities pay consulting firms to prepare the financial reports. The Gilmer BOE does not pay an outside firm as Penland and her staff prepares the documents and filings themselves.

This award is presented to organizations that submit quality financial statements and supporting documentation in a timely manner. To receive this award, the organization’s annual financial report must also be free of any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses, comply with all Transparency in Government requirements, and be given an unmodified audit opinion.

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BOE could final adopt FY 19 Budget Thursday

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has met its two meeting requirement and could be set to approve final adoption of their $43 million budget.

If adopted, the item will change from the tentative budget to the official FY 19 budget for the BOE. Any wishing to speak on the topic should contact the BOE before Thursday to sign up.

The budget is estimated to see a $2,996,931 shortcoming of Revenues under Expenditures draining the fund balance down to $17,403,069 but June 30, 2019.

Recent years have seen similar budgets set with millions over revenue, they have also seen the budget change drastically throughout the year. The FY 18 budget could see the Revenue under Expenditures reduced to $160,392 by the end of June according to a new amendment presented in the Boards June Work Session.

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Danny Hall resigns from Post 2 Commissioner race

Election 2018

ELLIJAY, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with the Gilmer County Probate Court that Danny Hall has removed his name from the Post 2 Commissioner ballot.

Tammy Watkins from the Gilmer County Probate Court confirmed with FYN that the official paperwork has been filed to remove him from the race. However, the name will still appear on the ballots in the election. According to Watkins, there will be notes in the election booths about his retirement from the race.

It is the current understanding that the official reason for Hall backing out of the race is due to work scheduling conflicts that he said would detriment his service to the county. Hall stated that the conflicts would not allow him to make a full commitment to the position.

With only the official statement available, stay with FYN as we seek more details from Hall in the coming days. Hall’s withdrawal from the election leaves three other candidates in the race: Karleen Ferguson, Jerry Tuso, and Woody Janssen.

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Post 2 Commissioner candidate Karleen Ferguson

Election 2018

ELLIJAY, Ga. –  Creator of Ellijay’s outdoor social club, Stay Active Ellijay, Karleen Ferguson qualified in March to run for the position of Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.

Originally attending the University of Georgia for a degree in early childhood education and graduating from Kean University in New Jersey with the degree, Ferguson actually spent much of her time with her family’s Catering and Events business in Atlanta. While she admits it was not her dream, she said she learned a lot from planning the events alongside her family.

First moving to Ellijay in 2000, she admitted that her and Robert Ferguson, her husband, used to be one of those people who would come to their home in Ellijay but avoid the crowds. Karleen Ferguson returned to Atlanta in 2005 to take care of her family while maintaining a second home in Ellijay. Growing more in the community and becoming more socially active, she said she began to notice more of the “depressed conditions” she found in areas of the community.

In 2010, Ferguson said, she and her husband Robert sold their main home to live in Ellijay full-time. After helping create the concert series Ellijay Under the Stars, she met Paige Green at one of the events. Building on her achievements and events planning, she began working for the Gilmer Chamber as the Tourism and Special Events coordinator.

Along with her husband, Robert, Karleen Ferguson has raised four children, three boys and one girl, while performing duties as a health coach for over 18 years spanning before and after her time with the Chamber. Even after leaving the Chamber to continue her health coach work, she volunteered in the Chamber’s Ambassador program where she served five years. During that time, she grew out of health coaching to create Stay Active Ellijay (SAE) in order to fill what she calls a gap between encouraging people to experience the region and actual programs to facilitate the experience.

Described as an “award-winning outdoor social club” by Ferguson, SAE currently serves over 200 members through activities like hiking, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, and more.

Ferguson said she draws from all of this in her efforts toward the commissioner’s seat. She drew experience in growth and tourism from her time at the Chamber and financial and logistical experience from planning events with her family. She drew experience in the county’s departments when she helped alongside the Parks and Recreation with Gold Kist and merchant supporters to grow a soccer program in Gilmer. She noted even running Stay Active Ellijay provides her a basis for the community saying, “I feel like I am the best voice and I understand the heartbeat of the community the best.”

If she is elected to the position, Ferguson said, she is a quick learner because “I love to get in and get my hands dirty … I love to fix things.”

Ferguson tells FYN she had not even considered running, but having rolled off of her services in the Chamber volunteer and Ambassador work, she began to look for her next project and service. It was not until she had heard from current Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch that he would not be running again that she thought of running herself.

Furthering the conversation, Ferguson said she sat down with Couch to discuss the position and the possibility of running. Then she went on to sit down individually with both Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller. After meeting with all three and feeling confident that she could hold the position, she prayed over the move and, feeling it was God’s direction for her, qualified for election.

Maintaining volunteer work and her business with SAE, Ferguson told FYN she will have no problem juggling her responsibilities as she is used to having a lot on her plate in her life. She went on to say, “I don’t commit to anything unless I can give fully of myself.”

Her main goals in the Post 2 Commissioner revolve around protecting the green-space and continuing along the work that she has seen in the last four years. With building, construction, and real estate on the rise, Ferguson said she wants to be a part of the growth, but maintain a view of the thought that Kent Sanford brought up in an earlier meeting saying, “We need to grow in a qualitative way rather than quantitative.”

Mentioning a few ideas to better utilize the county’s resources, Ferguson said she was excited to have the repairs for the walking path and tennis courts while she wants to see better utilization of natural resources like the rivers.

Summing up her feelings on the position in a final thought, she stated, “Trust me to make what I feel is the best decisions for the entire community … I really want to just be a voice for my entire Gilmer County family.”

 

Karleen Ferguson is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Jerry Tuso, and Danny Hall.

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Post 2 Commissioner candidate Jerry Tuso

Election 2018
Jerry Tuso

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Having put in his qualification to run for the position of Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner, G.R. “Jerry” Tuso resigned from his position as chairman of the Gilmer County Republican Party.

He tells FetchYourNews (FYN) he left the chairman position to run for the Post 2 position to be more hands on with the county in his service.

Previous to his time in Gilmer County, Tuso has spent a total 25 years as an air traffic controller. He had four years with the position in the United States Air Force and 21 years in the position with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He noted these positions when speaking to FYN about his choice to run for the Board of Commissioners. He said he is running because he wants to continue serving the community.

Tuso also said he brings business experience to the position without currently having a business to divide his time between. His experience comes from attending Tarrent County Business School in Hurst, Texas, three years spent on the planning and zoning commission in Hurst, and 19 years in national contract negotiation for contractors dealing with the FAA.

Tuso did note one change he wanted to bring to the Board of Commissioners being a change to the “part-time” status of the post commissioners. “In the last ten years, Gilmer County has almost doubled, and we’ve still got the old hat of part-time post commissioners,” said Tuso.

He went on to note that the current commissioners spend upward of 30 hours a week on their positions through all they do. He also pointed out how large their binders are when the commissioners sit down to their monthly meetings. Tuso also noted the exemplary work that the current chairman and post commissioners have accomplished on the county, both financially and physically as the county is building on to itself.

Tuso told FYN that is what he wants to focus his service on, sustainable growth in the county. He noted the wineries as part of the agricultural growth the county has seen but with people continuing to want to live in Gilmer to commute elsewhere for work. His ideas of sustainable growth are what he wants to delve into at the position, if elected.

FYN asked Tuso to sum up his feelings on running for the Post 2 Commissioner. He replied saying, “I just want the chance to serve.”

 

Jerry Tuso is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other candidate interviews as they become available for Woody Janssen, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.

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Calendars approved in Board of Education’s March meetings

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final tallies have been made and the Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) have officially approved their calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.

The 2018-2019 Calendar Poll Results (click to enlarge).

A stark change this year showed one calendar was far above the others. Calendar 2 collected 859 votes, accounting for 48.18 percent of the vote. Approved by the board, this calendar is set as the plan for the next school year and will be utilized to plan everything for the coming year.

The votes were collected over the last month online on the BOE’s website through polling from public citizens, but the candidate calendars were created by teams within each school before being submitted for consideration.

Be sure to look below to find the Draft 2 Calendar approved in the board’s March meeting.

Also set for next year, schedules were set for salaries and supplements. The workforce continues to see rises in insurance as well as minor changes for positions in transitions as well as the step up raises for staff and teachers hitting milestones in their careers.

Financial reports were presented at the meeting setting the board’s status as of the end of January with revenue coming in over expenditures by $5,168,037. Just past the fiscal year’s midpoint, the finances still reflect expectations to see that number drop under expenditures to -$1,298,797. Though no one showed for the board’s first scheduled budget session for next year, there will be another meeting set for citizens to speak closer to June as the budget gets set into detail for the next fiscal year.

Along with finances, the board ratified a purchase approved by poll for equipment purchases for the elementary and primary schools. Mountain View’s approved expense equaled $85,179 from Southeast Outdoor Solutions. Ellijay Elementary’s approved expense equaled $71,88o from Superior Play Systems. Ellijay Primary’s approved expense equaled $76,493 from Hasley Recreation Inc. All three purchase funding comes from the Local Capital Projects budget.

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