East Ellijay Council continues millage and SPLOST

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Finances became a main focus in a late June meeting of the East Ellijay City Council as they addressed the city’s tax exemption and the new intergovernmental SPLOST referendum.

While simply continuing what has been in effect for East Ellijay for years, the city still needed an official motion for continuing the 3.5 mills on the rate as well as the longtime waiving of personal property tax of citizens as well as the commercial tax for all entities and individuals owning or operating businesses in the city limits.

Approved by the council, the city continues this practice throughout its coming fiscal year.

The Council also approved the new SPLOST split presented by the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners. Moving East Ellijay’s percentage from 1.93% to 2.0%. Noted in the meeting for the council members. East Ellijay Mack West spoke with the council about the meetings he attended and the slight change in percentage.

The Council summarily motioned and approved the agreement. As reported when the referendum was made ready for city approvals, citizens could be looking to see this vote in this year’s election cycles.

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Bids and appointments prepare commissioners for 2018

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners entered the year’s end awarding last-minute bids for 2018 and appointing board members and positions for the county.

Awarding the 2018 Tax Anticipatory Note (TAN) produced four bids. The two lowest bids came from Southstate Bank with a variable rate currently at 1.696 percent and Regions Bank with a fixed rate at 1.93 percent. Though Southstate is currently lower, the commissioners noted the variable rate has already jumped from 1.53 percent in the first week of November.

Since the commissioners are not expecting to utilize the TAN until August or September of 2018, and noting upward pressure on rates, the motion came to approve Regions Bank’s fixed rate of 1.93 percent.

Along the same item, the banking services for 2018 was bid as well. Five banks offered bids with two bids being offered contingent on winning the TAN bid as well. The three left included United Community Bank with $50 monthly service charges and a 0.65 percent interest rate, Parks Sterling Bank with no monthly charges and a 0.15 percent interest rate, and Chase with its interest rate made to offset the service charges.

Currently, the county is using United Community Bank. As discussion went through their work session, the board began considering the costs of transferring accounts, including ordering new checks. Making the motion for approval, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated, “Given the offer and also considering the expense of making a change, it would be my opinion that we should just continue with United Community Bank.” The motion was unanimously approved.

Another bid approved during December was the emulsion bids. Originally bid with other materials previously, Gilmer County Public Works Director Jim Smith stated the county only had one bid at the time and another vendor claimed it did not receive the notification for bid. Rebidding now, Ergon Asphault Emulsions, $2.30 per gallon for CRS2L and $1.85 per gallon for CRS2H, and Hudson Materials, $2.06 per gallon for CRS2L and $1.72 per gallon for CRS2H, made offerings.

As low bidder, Hudson Materials was approved for emulsion material beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

The county is moving forward with a lease agreement with the Gilmer Chamber to occupy the Watkins House located downtown. The agreement will allow for the Chamber to create a downtown welcome center and display space. Although other entities are interested in the space, such as Gilmer ARTS and the historical society, both looking to display items in the building, the county is set to main lease to the Chamber while allowing them to decide on sub-leasings for space and display.

The agreement is still in its early stages, but indications suggest the county will be maintaining the space while the Chamber pays for utilities. Rent would be negligible, one suggestion indicated a dollar per year. With the agreement beginning, Chairman Paris suggested the Chamber interest could see utilization of the space as early as spring.

As the agreement moves forward, citizens can expect to revisit the item in coming months for approvals by the board.

The other items for the meeting included several board and position appointments to new and open terms through the county:

Lex Rainey and Don Callihan were appointed to the Gilmer/Pickens Joint Development Authority;

Jim DuPont and Alan Davenport were reappointed to the Planning Commission Board;

Tony Pritchett was appointed as County Legislative Coordinator; and

Cathy Green was appointed to the Northwest Georgia Region 1 Emergency Medical Services Council.

Check out more on the commissioners’ December meeting with “December meetings continue commissioners’ budget conversation.”

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Commissioners Officially Adopt Millage Rate

News

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially adopted the 6.983 Millage Rate.

The final vote came 2-1 with Chairman Charlie Paris being the dissenting vote. Later he told FYN there was very little difference between the Rollback Rate and current Millage Rate. “If we stick with the current rate instead of the rollback rate you have to advertise it as a tax increase. I disagree with that. I feel its not. So, my feeling is I did not want the people of Gilmer County to see that we are raising their taxes. I don’t like a tax increase… I wanted to set the Rollback Rate and move on.”

The official motion to adopt came from Post Commissioner Travis Crouch who stated, “I listened to the Special Called Meeting and both arguments and perspectives… At the end of the day, I find, at the end of the day, that the points that Dallas made are compelling in our situation. So, I feel like keeping the Millage Rate where it has been for the past two years is appropriate for our situation.”

This will make the third year in a row that the millage rate has been at 6.983. Previously, it sat at 7.224 before that.

After the motion was seconded, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller opted to comment on the action before votes were cast. “I hope that something as serious as this, as what we decide on property taxes, should not be, [sic] and I’m just going to ask the public to not make this a political issue. This is a financial decision we need to make. We need to do, to the best of our knowledge, what we think is best for our county.”

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BOE And BOC Set Millage Rates

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, GA – Two meetings in July have tentatively set the tax future for Gilmer County.

The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss the Rollback Rate of 6.617 and the County’s decision on its millage. During the meeting. their discussion centered around a $291,048 loss to the budget if the Rollback Rate was approved. However, since the meeting, FYN has discovered that a recalculation could mean a drastically different number with the Rollback.

Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated in the meeting that while he was used to Rollback Rates coming with a roughly $30,000 loss to the budget, but the nearly $300,000 loss would be a serious hit to the county.

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch made note of serious issues the County is still facing including rising insurance costs and the Lower Cartecay Road Bridge that needs replacing. Currently, Director Jim Smith has not been able to obtain additional funding for the bridge.

However, with the new information of a recalculated rate, a new meeting is being called for the Commissioners to revisit the discussion with the newer information.

On the Board of Education side, the calculated Rollback Rate suggested 16.24 as the Rollback Rate. Recommending the process to begin with advertising the rate, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, after extended discussion with the Board, she was recommending a rate lower than the Rollback at 16.12.

As the meeting moved forward discussing the rate, the final vote came to approve advertising for the rate at 16.12. However, the vote split at 3-1 with Board Member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. Board Member Ronald Watkins was absent from the meeting and did not vote.

FYN caught up with Weaver to ask about his vote. Weaver stated, “I think it should be lower.”

With the lower rate, the BOE should see taxes decrease by $392,870 according to the Board’s documentation.

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Gilmer Schools Approve Budget

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Coming to the end of a process that began back in Fall, Gilmer County Schools’ Board of Education has approved a tentative budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year.

With some obvious changes such as One time Grants for projects like the School Cannery, other major changes are coming such as staffing adding two ESOL teachers, one Special Education teacher, one academic coach, one RTI Intervention Teacher, and one health pathway teacher for the Certified Nursing path in school among others. The school system is also moving forward on the Provision 2 Free Breakfast project for students.

Gilmer Schools Tentative Budget

Gilmer Schools Tentative Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018

Taking a closer look at the budget, our Schools are estimating to end FY18 with a $1,298,797 gap between revenues and expenditures. This estimation is not unheard of in Gilmer County as they have projected themselves under expenditures last year as well.

Gilmer Schools estimated in June of 2016 that they would be $1,631,875 under expenditures for their budget. This estimate left a fund balance of $14,962,247 by June 30,2017. However, the school system is currently estimating a fund balance of $20.7 million on July 1, 2017. Chief Financial Officer Trina Penland gave credit for the change to the Board of Education and specifically to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes for continuously reviewing expenditures and cutting unnecessary items.

Regardless, the schools still estimates this year’s budget revenues to still come up short of expenditures by $1,298,797 leaving a fund balance of $19,401,203 by June 30, 2018.

While everyone remembers the mandated 2% salary increase for teachers, and our systems plan to increase the 2% to all faculty and staff, other changes have affected expenditures for the school system including a $300,000 increase in textbooks and a $560,000 increase to the TRS benefits (Teachers Retirement System) for employees. While the school system has been paying 14.27% of the costs for teachers TRS Benefits, this is now increasing to 16.81%. FY19 is also estimated to 20.9%.

One other notable increase comes as the Board approved a request from the Commissioners to increase their funding for School Resource Officers to 50% of the total costs, this $45,000 increase will take the total cost from its current $105,000 to $150,000.

On the Revenue side, the school system will be seeing a $635,000 increase to QBE Allotment from the State to aid in covering tuition and instruction in addition to the TAVT (Title Ad Valorem Taxes) Revenue. The TAVT is still being inflated due to repayment of taxes from the county and cities after the disbursement error in the Tax Commissioner’s office. This could offset in roughly a year and a half when the repayment is completed. However, Penland stated they have noticed an increase in collection from last year and are optimistic the economy could at least make up for a portion of the difference by the time those payments cease.

Gilmer Schools FY18 Expense Changes

The expected changes for Expenses in the FY18 Gilmer Schools Budget.

GIlmer Schools FY18 Revenue Changes

The expected changes for Revenue in the FY18 Gilmer Schools Budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, during their meeting, the Board of Education also moved forward with approval for a Technology purchase of $90,000 for eight carts of Chromebooks. With 30 Chromebooks per cart, 240 total, Dr. Wilkes stated this would finally put 3rd and 4th Grades to a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks and students.

While the budget is currently tentative, the Detailed Budget will be up for approval at the June 15 meeting. Citizens wishing to speak or comment on the budget can do so at their Work Session on June 12 or sign up to speak at the Regular Meeting on June 15.

 

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Commissioners Discuss Millage After Recalculation

News

ELLIJAY, GA – After recalculations for Gilmer County’s Millage Rate, the Board of Commissioners came to another special meeting in July to re-discuss the Rollback Rate.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated the newer rate of 6.850 was a “much more palatable” rollback. The newer rate could mean about a $5,513 loss to the County Budget.

Discussions continued with the Board of Commissioners debating whether a rollback rate was to be accepted. While all of the Commissioners agreed the Rollback Rate was far better than the original 6.617 representing close to $300,000 lost in the budget, they began speaking about the use of a Rollback Rate compared to the County’s continued efforts to increase the tax digest.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller stated he didn’t want citizens to think a rollback meant lower taxes or that staying with the current rate meant higher taxes. However, continuing to use the Rollback Rate every year meant that any efforts to grow the county or the digest would effectively throw away all of the work of the county. He went on to say that just following the Rollback Rate “has the same effect as if we never even re-evaluated or re-assessed our property. Why did we spend a lot of time and money reassessing property and then throw that work away basically?”

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch mentioned that the difference between the Rollback Rate and maintaining the current Millage Rate was not a large amount of money, but also that Miller had not mentioned the increasing costs facing the county in the coming years like health insurance costs, personnel, and others that the county cannot necessarily control.

Chairman Paris agreed that the rollback was an issue with the county’s efforts to increase the digest, but he felt the amount of money in difference between the rollback and the current rate was not worth having to run advertisement, by law, as a tax increase.

With a motion from Travis Crouch to maintain the current Millage Rate for a third year in a row and a second from Dallas Miller, the Commissioners officially voted 2-1 to maintain the current Millage Rate of 6.983. Chairman Paris was the dissenting vote of the three.

The official action from the meeting will begin advertising for the millage rate so that citizens will have an opportunity to speak to the Commissioners before the final vote.

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Gilmer County Advertises Property Taxes Increase

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Coinciding with the “Commissioner’s Discussion of the Millage Rate After Recalculation“, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have released the following documents informing citizens of the Millage Rate and their opportunity to speak at public meetings about it. Also, be sure to check out the Current 2017 Tax Digest and Five Year History of the Levy for more information on the Millage Rate and the Agenda for the Special Called Meeting on August 17 to see the final meeting planned for adopting the Millage Rate.

 

PRESS RELEASE ANNOUNCING A PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE

Each year, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trends of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the Board of Tax Assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has made the decision to keep the 2017 Maintenance and Operation (M& O) millage rate at 6.983 mills which is the same as the 2016 millage rate. However since this millage rate exceeds the calculated rollback millage rate it is deemed a tax increase for 2017. Before the Board can set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Jury Assembly Room located on the 2nd floor of the Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad Street, Ellijay, Georgia on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm and August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.

Notice of Property Tax Increase

The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 1.94 percent.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearing on this tax increase to be held at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 10, 2017 at 5:00pm.

Times and places of additional public hearings on this tax increase are at the Gilmer County Courthouse Jury Assembly Room on August 17, 2017 at 9:00am and 6:30pm.

This tentative increase will result in a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) millage rate of 6.983 mills, an increase of .133 mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 6.850 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $7.71 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $75,000 is approximately $3.99.

 

 

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Gilmer BOC Sees Ordinance Change and TAN Update

News

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Commissioners saw possible progress for the Cherry Log Fire Station in the form of an Ordinance Change along with an update on this years Tax Anticipation Note (TAN).

The County accepted the First Reader and Public Commentary Meeting for a change to ordinances regarding Purchases of the Board of Commissioners. Attempting to deal with one of the issues delaying the Cherry Log Fire Station, this new change is set  The new change will allow the Commissioners to increase the spending limit with a single vendor in a year without bidding from $20,000 to $50,000 if the capital project is already in the County Budget. Additionally, the Commissioners added a new requirement that any purchases over $25,000 would require two separate signatures from the County Commissioners.

Although no citizens spoke at the Public Hearing, the Commissioners will have the Second Reading for the change at August’s Meetings if citizens still wish to speak on the subject.

The Commissioners also brought up the bid TAN for 2017. Although not yet utilized this year, Chairman Paris stated they expect to begin drawing upon it in Mid August.

Many will recall that the TAN has been needed later and later every year over the last few years. However, last year the TAN was also used in August. Paris addressed the meeting about this saying that while citizens may have originally expected to push the TAN back further this year, one major change to the budget changed that expectation. Beginning in 2017, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners separated close to $800,000 from the General Fund Budget received through LMIG Grants.

Though that Grant is usually left in the General Fund as a “buffer” according to Chairman Paris, the separation of these funds means there is less of a buffer for the year’s expenses. Paris stated during the movie that after losing the major amount of funds from the general fund and still going to mid-August before needing to utilize the TAN is a good sign for the county and its economy.

The general sense could mean that Gilmer still see the TAN used later next year, especially with Commissioner’s expectations for maintaining close to a four to four-and-a-half month contingency fund for the county. Citizens could even see Gilmer forgoing usage of the TAN in the coming years if the county continues financially as it currently is.

Additionally, July’s meeting saw the Commissioners appoint Bill Logan to the Board of Tax Assessors due to an recent resignation. Their appointment of Logan is to fulfill the remainder of that term. They also appointed Mary Ann Cook to the Keep Gilmer Beautiful Board.

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