EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Moving to the selling of Gilmer BOE bonds, no public comment has been presented in any recent Board of Education Meetings to oppose or support selling bonds for the series 2020 ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds.
Gabe Agan, Senior Vice President of Raymond James Georgia Public Finance, presented the final paperwork at a Called Meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Education on January 9, 2020. The Bond Yield is set at 1.53 percent for “All-inclusive True Interest Cost” with approval for up to $15 million in General Obligation Bonds.
The schedule is moving swiftly as the pricing was set on January 8, 2020. The Delivery Date is set for January 28, 2020. and Gilmer’s first Interest Payment date will be June 1, 2020. This debt will last through the next five years with a final Principal and Interest Payment date set for December 1, 2025.
According to the paperwork provided by Raymond James Georgia Public Finance, Gilmer is estimated to collect $24,302,765 assuming zero growth and report the school system’s final debt service to total $17,206,450.
This item was approved without contest in the Special Called Meeting for the Gilmer BOE before immediately moving to the Gilmer Board of Commissioners Meeting the same night for approval there. As with the bond sales, should ESPLOST not be enough to pay for the Debt service, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners will be set to impose a tax to cover the payments.
Gilmer County’s freshly restored-to-three Board of Commissioners is delving deep into talks with citizens on the topic of roads and bridges.
Going through town hall meetings, the discussion was originally advertised to hear citizens’ thoughts on roads and bridges. However, at the beginning of their first town hall, Commission Chairman Charlie Paris offered a few words of his own thoughts saying he receives numerous calls daily about the situation.
With 501 miles of roads in the county, Paris said just under 200 miles of that is unpaved gravel road. Paris noted the major problem with the gravel roads is that as soon as the county fixes a road, a heavy rain will destroy the repairs and work they have accomplished.
Even though they planned to move road to road with two teams across the county, these teams cannot follow schedules as Paris says he constantly tells them to respond to one complaint or another, whether it’s ditches or other worse gravel roads.
When trying to find an answer to these issues, Paris said he wants to pave more roads. While he points to the major improvements in the road department over the recent years, he admits the budget is not enough to accommodate everything he wants to do with and in the Road Department.
Paving roads in the county costs between $40,000 – $50,000 per mile for “tar and chip” according to Paris, asphalt paving is more costly at about $90,000 per mile. These costs do not include striping as the county does not stripe its own roads. However, Paris said another “wish” would be to begin looking for equipment and having the road department begin striping as it has been difficult to find companies recently to do the striping.
After paving and striping, maintenance also includes mowing of all 501 miles of road.
As he spoke about the costs of each need the county has for paving and the wants he verbalized for the department and the county, Paris said, “When I first took office, I could be heard to say many times, ‘We’re broke. We can’t do that, we’re broke.’ We’re not broke anymore, and I’m really proud of that. We’re in a good financial position…” Paris went on to note that some people have said to use reserves money to pave or to take the money from the larger budgets like Fire, EMA, or Sheriff. Paris noted that these budgets are all severely cut already during the budget process. He said taking enough from these other sources would cripple the departments just to make a little progress on the roads.
One of the biggest strains on the budget each year is, of course, the debt service for the county paying off its bond debt. Citizens have been contending with this situation for years. And More recently, they have dealt with the 1.5 mill bond millage. However, Paris did say that during the budget process this year, they had considered lowering this rate, and in fact are looking to take the bond millage in the 2020 budget down to 1.25 instead of 1.5 saying, “It was never intended to be a permanent extra half mill. We have projected in our 2020 budget that that will go down to a mill-and-a-quarter rather than a mill-and-a-half. With the idea that in the 2021 budget, it will go back down to a mill and the half mill will be gone.”
Returning to the subject at hand of roads and bridges, ultimately, Paris said he saw only three options for the county.
With 13 years left to pay on the bond debt service, the county can continue as it is, spending about a million dollars on paving a year and raise it after the debt is paid.
The second option would be to raise the millage rate, which Paris adamantly stated was not an option he would consider.
The third option Paris offered, was to enact a “local TSPLOST.” Paris said that several years ago, the county voted on a regional TSPLOST. Paris said he opposed that TSPLOST as it was a regional tax, usable in many of the other counties.
Many will recall what citizens at the time called a “punishment” for voting no, the matching funds for LMIG grants was raised from 10% to 30%. Paris said that even today, he would still adamantly oppose a regional TSPLOST.
What he proposed as a local TSPLOST, the stipulation would be that the money must be used for nothing outside of transportation. Usable for equipment purchases, paving, maintenance, and even road crew salary, Paris said he wouldn’t want to use it for salaries “because that TSPLOST will go away at some point and those salaries will still be there.”
A TSPLOST would be a 5-year program. As he noted this, Paris stated, “You have the option of renewing it after 5 years, my pledge is that I will never ask for a renewal if we do it one time.”
Paris said he has tried for other alternatives to get the roads in shape and maintain them but has yet to find a sufficient answer.
After his nearly 30 minute speech over the state of the county’s roads and road department, many of the citizens present offered their support for a TSPLOST. Towards the end of the meeting, Paris asked how many people would be willing to support it. Nearly every person attending raised their hand. In fact, only one person at the meeting opposed the TSPLOST.
Paris also asked another question during the meeting. Far fewer people, less than half of those present, supported the idea when Paris asked who would want to sell bonds on the TSPLOST to see a faster effect on the county’s roads. This second topic was actually originally raised by one citizen, John Schmidt, who asked how soon the citizens would see the option to vote on it and would begin seeing the changes as he said, “People, a lot of the time, we expect things to happen overnight.”
Paris said, “I have had it recommended to me that if this passes, that we go ahead and get a bond and do it all once and then pay for it with the TSPLOST. But, I’m not real big on doing that. I would kind of rather just let things sit for four or five months and let some money build up and then do it as it comes in.”
This is not the first time the Commissioners have spoken of the topic of a TSPLOST, but it is the first time it has been discussed with citizens as an actual option for the county to pursue. It could come as soon as the May ballot in 2020. Collections would begin on the first day of the next quarter.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is moving into the final stages of its budget process as official approval for the advertisement of the 2020 budget came in November.
Coming from the original proposals and requests for each department, the county has cut more than a million dollars to achieve the budget’s current form. Now, with approval to advertise, the county will look to adopt the budget in December, just in time for the start of the 2020 calendar year.
With the board now back to its original three-person format, no resurgence in the budget has come from newly elected Post Commissioner Hubert Parker who was present for most of those original budget meetings as a citizen after qualifying for the election.
November itself saw one last hurdle as the board looked for its last few cuts to balance the budget, considering a smaller contingency fund to make up the difference.
The final form is being advertised as thus:
One item not included in the budget as advertised was raised in recent talks over roads and bridges with citizens where the BOC put forth the idea of a TSPLOST for the county to answer citizen concerns over road issues.
The budget is set to advertise through the beginning of December, citizens can comment on the budget during December’s regular meetings at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, and 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 12, 2019.
North Georgia – According to a recent article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), a senate committee has recommended longer summers for Georgia Students.
Instead of quoting test scores, educators, or studies about student learning, the committee suggested a school year starting the first Monday of September, and ending around June 1.
The basis for this suggestion? Economic analysis.
According to the AJC’s article, the committee was devoid of teachers, school leaders, or PTA representatives. Their suggestion bypassed academics and said that the longer summer, roughly three months, would help tourism grow and increase summer workforce.
Taking a local response from Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Fannin County School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, the consensus seems to be that these systems are appalled at the thought of economic interests waylaying the education system in favor on money.
Dr. Downs told FYN that shortening the year would not only decrease the breaks that the local school system has in place for students, but would make testing in the first semester almost impossible. She noted an immense testing impact if students were to go through first semester and Christmas, only to then come back in January for end of course testing.
A sentiment that was separately echoed by Dr. Gwatney who also noted how much work these school systems put into their calendars, over 6 months of effort and staff input are taken by each of these two school systems before a final handful of calendars are presented for community input in the Board of Education. Finally, the Board approves a final Calendar in the spring for the coming school year.
Additionally, Dr. Gwatney pointed out how far the effect of these calendars reach as he also brought in fellow administrators to speak on the issue.
Fannin County Schools Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde(heading up the District’s Charter), Fannin County Nutrition Director Candace Sisson (also the Calendar Committee Coordinator), and Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Robert Ensley (Administration and Personnel) all agreed that stepping into the local schools in such a way without any representation from schools on the committee was not the way the state should be looking at the issue. From the time spent working on the calendar to allowing each individual county to cater to their student’s and county’s needs, these representatives of Fannin County exerted the necessity of individualized calendars.
Downs also noted this importance in Gilmer County as she noted that each school presents its own calendar that is put together by teachers and administrators and then put out for citizen input. Noting the influence of educators of the process, Downs said she was against the thought of a committee placing importance of economy over education.
While both these counties gain a lot from the tourism industry, they annually balance their own festivals, events, and economies against the education calendar. Local people provide local input from local expertise as they continually deal with this problem.
Though the recommendation is non-binding, it leaves citizens asking the question of how much control the state should have and exert over local governments. Though not directly related, they still recall the Governors “Opportunity School Districts” campaign in recent years. A campaign shot down at the polls. If moved forward and put in place, regulations on the school year may shift discussions from the economic benefit to the state as a whole and focus solely on the overreach of State Government into local communities.
According to the AJC, the committee includes chair and state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism for the Department of Economic Development Kevin Langston, Georgia Chamber of Commerce designee Michael Owens, Director of the Georgia Travel Association Kelsey Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus Jay Markwalter, former state Director of Community Affairs Camila Knowles, State Board of Education member Scott Johnson and Grier Todd, chief operating officer at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners opted for a refunding savings option from the Series 2014 Bond this month.
Taking ‘Option A’ that was presented by Andrew Tritt, Managing Director at Stifel Financial Corp, will allow approximately $168,000 split between the remaining years. The savings would come to about $15,000 a year until the bonds are paid off.
While Option B ultimately realizes only $128,000, according to Tritt’s presentation, it would defer 2019’s payment in an opportunity to see nearly an extra million dollars in 2019.
However, County Chairman Charlie Paris pointed out that Option B would only defer that payment, meaning it takes that money from next year’s SPLOST. That million dollars is not extra and would put 2020’s SPLOST down a million dollars. Paris noted in the regular meeting that he didn’t think that moving the payment back was worth it. He said that even though the extra million would be great for 2019, it would hurt too much to lose those funds from 2020.
Ultimately, the other Board members agreed with Paris as the vote came unanimously for ‘Option A’ to advertise the movement forward.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite only being halfway through the school year, the Gilmer Board of Education is already preparing for 2019 and the coming years with two resolutions in their December meeting.
Approving next year’s meetings sets the schedule for 2019 as the Board moves forward. With January set from last year, the board has added it as a note. Different from Monday’s meeting, the board change the work session to Tuesday for January 2020 as the original Monday date falls on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. These Meetings are:
Additionally, the board has also formally approved a resolution to reflect the county’s elections in November. The results of 7,408 for and 4,432 against set the Board in position for the next ESPLOST Cycle. Though this resolution is officially the next step, Board Members have already discussed speaking with attorney’s about Bonding the next ESPLOST Cycle for the projects listed. As made public earlier this year, the survey results from the public are to also include the new performing arts center among a new elementary school and other projects.
The Board also approved personnel for the month of December. Though many thought this might include a new football coach, none was included. However, Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made a special address to the issue that later saw a Special Called Meeting for next week.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held their Special Called Meeting in which discussion of the county’s Millage Rate and decisions were made.
Considered their calculations of accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.370, the generalized budget for the county would wind up relatively the same, with only a possible $10,000 difference over what they collected this year.
With the continued growth in Gilmer County, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller noted it was one of the bigger rollbacks he has seen. He also noted the Rollback Rate represented over $800,000 dollars in budget difference to the county.
The county has not increased or decreased its Millage Rate in several years, maintaining 6.983 in since 2015.
Miller suggested to the board that he believed they should continue maintaining the current millage rate. Repeating their same argument against the state directive of Rollback Rate and what is called a tax increase, the board as a whole agreed upon the unfairness of calling it a tax increase when they maintain the same rate.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch commented on the rate saying they could “split the difference” and lower the rate slightly without going all the way to the Rollback. He went on to note that last year, the commissioners had to cut $2.5 million from the county’s initial proposed budget.
Crouch took a moment to ask Commission Chairman Charlie Paris how he felt this year’s budget would compare.
Paris responded by saying, “That we will probably have to cut a bit more. That’s been the trend.”
Agreeing with Paris, Crouch noted he held similar expectations. The board heard similar arguments from department heads including Public Works Director Jim Smith who noted the increasing costs in gravel and stone. Paris agreed, noting increases to diesel, gas, and salaries as well.
The opposing discussion came from Paris as he said he believes the biggest issue he gets calls on in the county is roads. However, looking at the choice between the services and taxes, he said he felt the citizens would be more dissatisfied with what is called a “tax increase.” He admitted that he was mixed emotions on the topic, but confessed he would come down on accepting the rollback.
Ultimately, as discussion began circling to repetition, a motion came from Dallas Miller to maintain the 6.983 millage rate. Crouch seconded the motion leading to a 2-1 vote with Charlie Paris as the dissenting vote.
The bond millage vote also approved maintaining the current rate with a unanimous 3-0 vote.
Moving forward on this decision, the board will begin advertising the rate before the formal public hearings on the millage rate, and then on to the final adoption.
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.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) met for the first time with their new executive director, Kent Sanford, Nov. 6.
Along with the new director, the JDA is moving forward with swapping employment of the executive director from a listed Gilmer Chamber employee to a direct employment with the JDA. Since the move has already been approved by the Board, the process is simply awaiting the time needed to complete the paperwork and finalize the logistics of the transition.
Sanford updated the Board about his first days saying he has spent a lot of time speaking with counterparts in surrounding counties, local project meetings for progress, and potential project meetings for future growth.
Sanford also met with local mayors as well as Pickens County officials as the new Gilmer-Pickens JDA begins coming together. While plans for training and classes are being made, Sanford is already integrating himself into the projects of the Greater Gilmer JDA.
Those projects continue with the JDA as well, involving one that Chairman Travis Crouch called Project X. While allusions were made to involvement with the school system, no definitive confirmation was made.
Another project underway is involving the Georgia Department of Transportation regarding a traffic light in the county. The JDA did mention the state is requiring a “warrant study” of the intersection in question. Avoiding winter and holiday traffic, the study may wait until February to be undertaken.
Again, with projects like these, the Board declines to add details to their projects as there are sensitive topics, financial deals, and non-disclosure agreements that could be negatively affected if details were given.
The running theme for the Board of Education’s June meeting brought financial decisions to the forefront as they prepare for their next fiscal year.
One of the major decisions came with awarding two of four bids for Fuel/Oil Products. Awarding Fuel Supply to Petroleum Traders, the BOE’s set price for the year will be $0.0278 over rack price for Unleaded and $0.0329 over rack price for Diesel. The second award went to Appalachian Propane at $0.848 per gallon of Propane Fuel.
The one bid received for Automotive Batteries from O’Reillys was declined with a comment that these will be purchased as needed for the year. Towing Services for the schools will also be called on as needed as that received no bids.
Right after awarding the bids, the Board discussed a proposal for school lunch prices increases. According to the proposal, the USDA is requiring school’s charging less than $2.86 to recalculate their prices. This will put the Primary, Elementary, and Middle Schools on a 10 cent increase to total $2.10 per meal. The High School will see a 25 cent increase to total $2.25. The Boards approval also set the reduced meal price at $0.40.
Along with the 2010 ESPLOST, 2015 ESPLOST, and Financial Reports, the Board received a report on recent Expenditures and Board Approved Purchases including the changes coming to the School Resource Officers after the recent changes to the budget when the Board agreed to a request from the Board of Commissioners to increase their funding of the Officers.
The changes to the budget, having gone through one meeting in March and another in June, were adopted at the June Regular Session to prepare for July as the beginning of FY 18. The budgets details can also be found in FYN’s recent article: “Gilmer Schools Adopts Budget”
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