ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners discussed their Millage Rate in a Special Meeting this July without one of its members.
Having contracted COVID-19, the board’s third commissioner, Karleen Ferguson, was absent from the meeting for health and safety. The two remaining commissioners discussed accepting the rollback rate versus not accepting it.
Very early, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris voiced his opinion to accept the rollback rate saying, “My personal position would be that we should take the rollback rate. It’s not going to hurt us terribly and I don’t think this is the year to be trying…”
Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker agreed saying that he was good with the Rollback as well.
However, additional discussions turned to the Bond Millage Rate for the county. With discussions last year on reducing the rate, the Commissioners ultimately decided against it, keeping the 1.5 mills, but promising to revisit the idea in 2020. Now, Parker and Paris began discussions by immediately moving to a debate on whether to reduce it by .25 or .15 mills. Paris noted that work still needs to continue in capital projects and expenditures coming in the Road Department as well. Having the Bond Millage pay off part of the bond debt service allows more SPLOST funds for those expenditures.
Parker offered his opinion on the Bond Millage saying, “I would be fine going with .25.” However, he did mention a desire to look at it again later. Looking at the decreases, Paris said he didn’t have a problem with reducing it by .25 mills to a Bond Millage Rate of 1.25 mills.
The rates were approved by two separate motions as Paris made a motion to approve advertising, it came to accept the Rollback Rate of 6.783 mills. The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.
Then came another motion from Paris to have “the Bond Millage Rate be reduced from 1.5 mills to 1.25 mills.” The rate was approved by the two present commissioners.
Moving forward, the Commissioners are looking for another Special Called meeting towards the end of August to formally adopt the Millage Rate. They have to wait for the Board of Education to adopt their rate in August before the County can formally adopt both rates.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Millage Rate is one of 5 items on the agenda this week during a special called meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners to be held on Friday, July 24, at 10 a.m.
The other items include the Swimming Pool, Vehicle Financing Documents, a Review of Roles and Responsibilities of the Board of Commissioners, and disposing of Surplus Real Property.
Property taxes and the millage rate are set into the agenda discussing a “Resolution Authorizing the Advertisement of the Rollback Rate.” Set at 6.898 mills last year by adopting the rollback rate, the county went through discussions over both the Millage Rate and the 1.5 mills Bond Rate.
Last year discussion came from then-commissioner Dallas Miller and Citizens Joene DePlancke over the Bond Millage. After refinancing bonds in previous years, Holden said in August of 2019 that the 2020 payment is expected to total just over $4 million. Still, discussions were made about, specifically, about the .5 mill on that bond payment millage rate to cover the payments.
As discussions will move forward with the Millage Rates for County and the Board of Education, who each have their own rates, the county approve its rates and awaits the BOE to set their rate, before final approval of both rates together can come in August, if the county follows the same schedule as previous years.
The swimming pool has been put on hiatus since near the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak as the Commissioners look to see what financial fallout would come from the shutdowns. However, discussions have started up again this month as the Board of Commissioners look for Bid specifications to begin the next step in the project.
The project got as far as the demolition of the old pool before stopping. The commissioners approved finishing that stage before coming to a full halt.
The bid process could start as early as next month with authorizing to advertise, however, to reach that point, obtaining the proper specifications is the current hurdle. Some discussion came during their regular July meeting voicing their disappointment that the designers of the pool came with estimates but are not going to deliver bid specifications. Paris said, “It surprised me that they couldn’t give us those specs…”
Disposing of Real Property is the other new business on the special meeting agenda. Agenda items like this sometimes do not specify a specific property in case multiple properties need to be discussed. However, an earlier copy of the agenda stated disposing of the former Planning and Zoning office as at least one of those properties.
“I saw the need, I heard the need,” says Penney Andruski about her run for Tax Commissioner of Gilmer County. She went on to say that rather than just complaining or bypassing what she feels is a need in the county, she wanted to jump in and do something about the issue.
Andruski worked in the courthouse for two years under the State of Georgia with the Department of Community Supervision. She says she saw a lot in her time there and learned how important the office and staff is to the county. She has had 28 years of business experience and management. She has also spent 10 years in Gilmer’s community with the Mountain Ridge Garden Shop. She has spent 23 years in Gilmer and is engaged. Unfortunately, with the virus outbreak, she has had to put things on hold there but wanted to push ahead with her candidacy for the office.
Being a public servant is hard, she said, but researching the position before she announced her candidacy, Andruski said she is the right person for it. The experience she has gained and diversity through everything from entry-level to executive positions, from mom-and-pop-businesses to high-end styles. Budgets, board meetings, committees, law, these are all things that Andruski specifically pointed to as she says she is ready for the challenge.
“Your staff is the face of you,” she said. “When you’re a good leader, and you have good leadership skills, that reflects out that you have a balance in that office because that is a work-family…”
Andruski said she wants to be pro-active and engaging to the public. Utilizing things like digital media and web-based information, the goal is to become pro-active in providing an expedient, professional, and engaging service to citizens so that they know all they need to.
“Information is critical,” said Andruski.
The office has been great at collections according to Andruski who says the next step is better connections. Whether a staff member is answering a phone or signing a legal document as a judge, the elected officials and employees of the courthouse serve the community and should strive to offer the very best work possible.
She said even amidst the virus, she has noticed the great works of entities like the Chamber who has kept people’s spirits up, but also kept the flow of information up. She said she wants to be just as good in engagement areas like that telling people about extensions and requirements and new updates. She doesn’t want surprises.
The more information that citizens and residents have, the better they will feel. She wants to improve upon the successes the office has made, but fill in the areas she says has needs.
Organization is a key point for Ansruski’s personality as she said she loves the details of operations. The reason behind her passion in this office specifically comes from the details of everything, details like the numbers, accounting, collections, citizens, law, and the ways to engage all of these together.
For citizens, she says, it is all about the experience and the service and participation of the commissioner translates through the staff and provides that service. When it all comes together, we will continue to grow, all of the dollars, the people, and the budgets have to balance to achieve these common goals.
One challenge she says she sees ahead is transitioning. The first year is key as, if elected, she operates off a budget she did not create, but also in meshing with the staff and bringing a welcoming environment to carry on to achieve the goals.
Andruski said being a good public servant is being the face of the office for the public. Open door policies are a given without a need to say such things. Andruski said that as a candidate for the Tax Commissioners office, she wants to be the breath of fresh air that leads to a more engaging office for citizens.
Though being elected for two terms and having almost eight years of experience in the position, Becky Marshall has been in the office of the Tax Commissioner for 16 years.
Married to Danny Marshall with two daughters and five grandchildren, Rebecca “Becky” Marshall has lived in Gilmer County for just under 24 years.
“I feel like I have made a big improvement to the Tax Commissioners office. I feel like I have worked well with the citizens of Gilmer County. I love what I do. I am passionate about what I do. And I want to continue to be available for all the taxpayers if they need me,” says Marshall.
Marshall offered a few of the accomplishments made over the years, but as she listed them, she noted that ‘we’ have done things. She said, “We have gotten the delinquencies caught up. We have been maintaining almost a 99 percent collection rate with all the tax bills… We have cross-trained all staff members so all staff members work in the motor vehicle division and in the property tax division.”
She noted improvements to PC’s over terminals and email contacts for employees, training and improving in customer service and decreasing wait times for citizens, and improving information for citizens to come in and get the information that they need.
Even in the current crisis, simple measures like adding a dropbox outside have made improvements for citizens wishing to maintain little to no contact. Marshall added that past improvements have helped as well like putting services online and allowing citizens to pay bills and attend to things that way have allowed people to stay home. She noted that even those coming in have needed adaptation as she has even said some have phoned and the office has offered curbside service to them.
Marshall said that the office needs to be flexible in these times saying, “It’s going to be a struggle for a lot of people. So, we want to be firm and we want to be strong, but we also want to be compassionate and understanding.”
Even now, Marshall says she wants to keep improving the office, growing with the times. Even though she says that she, personally, isn’t the best at upgrading and using social media, she wants the office to be better in that regard and has been working towards expansions into these realms for some time.
Reaching out is the next step, says Marshall. While some older generations may not use or need the digital upgrades, reaching out to younger generations and incorporating the citizens’ wants and interactions is a part of that step. She said she has considered options like self-service kiosks and convenience for people who work full-time, more open information through social media, and website improvements.
Even cooperations with other departments is improving as she states that the courts, the clerk’s office, the tax assessors office, all of these departments are crucial and communication and cooperation with them are just as crucial.
Marshall says she still has plans for the future, plans to continue improving the office past what they have already achieved. Yet, it isn’t progressing for progress’ sake that drives her. It’s the balancing and bottom lines that provide a sense of correctness and positive energy for her. Maintaining excellence is the force behind her. Continuing the effort and the payoff of her efforts for the office was why she ran eight years ago, and it is why, she says, she is running again this year.
She said, “The office belongs to Gilmer County, it doesn’t belong to me. My paycheck comes from the taxpayers. I want this office to run the way they expect it to run. I want the transparency, I want people to be able to see exactly what’s going on. There is always room for improvement. No matter what you’re doing…”
Candidate for Gilmer Tax Commissioner, Sharla Davis is a 30-year veteran of management and accounting positions with companies across Georgia.
Professionally working in accounting, management, and customer service in the Automotive Industry, Davis says she has worked for four of the top-ten Automotive Groups in the Nation. She currently works for Greenway Automotive group. Davis said she has gone through receiving, processing, balancing, and reporting for these groups including dealing with taxes, tax law, and exemptions that already start to cross over into the work as Tax Commissioner.
Two years of experience also comes from the Tax Commissioners office in Gilmer where she worked under current Commissioner Becky Marshall.
Speaking on working and living in Gilmer for five years, Davis said, “I love Gilmer County, my husband [David Hoover] and I moved up here five years ago and it has exceeded our expectations. The people, the landscape, and the area.”
She said that through his support she has gained the courage to pursue her campaign. Davis said that she loves talking with people one-on-one, but has had to rely on his encouragement for large public speaking venues. It is in those moments that little things like saying he is proud of her helps to motivate her through the process.
As Tax Commissioner, Davis said she would want to share this knowledge and training. The office has an accountant and deals with that area, but her experience also affords her management and leadership experience that she wishes to bring to bear and fill into more areas to make the office more successful.
Training and preparation are one of the curves Davis says she is excited to take on. Any new Commissioner has to go through training classes and learn the law aspects and procedures. While this is a learning curve for her, she says, it’s something she is looking forward to as she loves learning and exploring new things.
Accounting is, more so, a talent than a passion, says Davis. She went to school for teaching in Psychology. However, she was already in accounting positions as she worked. Continuing the current business after finishing school, accounting won out as she never really left it. Davis says it is the idea of having things balanced and complete that gives her satisfaction as she has honed a talent “that God blessed me with.”
Exploring those new areas means exploring the position and ways to adapt and improve while also continuing the postive practices already in place.
The Tax Commissioner can help people in the community simply by being accessible, being available. Davis said she wants to be a provider for the community just as much as the collections. Davis said she wants to improve areas of information gathering and distribution for the office. She offered ideas about improving the website and research capabilities, easing confusion of residents about the Tax Commissioners duties versus other departments, taking advantage of social media.
Even in the current situation with sheltering in place and business shutdowns, working with people is key. Adapting to the environment and being a part of the community are the ideas that Davis wants to express. Taking advantage of social media to continue easily accessed and noticeable updates.
Davis said that some of this accessibility she wants to push forward on could include adaptations like talking with the Board of Commissioners and other departments and looking at opening at least one Saturday of each month, even if only for a few hours, to be available for those who may not find the time during the week between work and their lives.
Davis said she wanted to look at options for some employees who may want to look at more part-time availability or adaptive schedules to look at employee’s choices and wants.
Having worked for two years in the office, Davis said she loved that the staff was very knowledgable and friendly. The environment is already in place that she wants to foster. Moving from a denser population towards Atlanta, she said that seeing these people in the office so helpful, kind, and informative was a very exciting change from what she was used to.
Adaptability is key, according to Davis, as she says she brings the experience of positions in need of flexibility. A leader with a positive attitude can work wonders in an office that has laws, software, programs, and needs that are constantly shifting.
“I believe in people before politics,” says Davis. This is an administrative position and the people are who we, as elected officials, serve. Davis said she wants to provide the residents of Gilmer with the most courteous, professional, and accessible service she can provide in a county that she loves.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Now that both cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay have approved their sides of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the TSPLOST, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners have followed suit by also approving approving the agreement.
The resolution approving the agreement establishes an estimated collection of up to $25 million from a one percent TSPLOST tax. As reported from the joint meeting between the cities and the county, the resolution also states the split of the proceeds between the three entities, “92.35% to the County, 5.72% to Ellijay and 1.93% to East Ellijay.”
While there are still more steps to complete after this Intergovernmental Agreement, such as preparing the ballot question and each entity fully describing the projects anticipated to be accomplished by these proceeds, the TSPLOST tax is well on its way to the spring voting ballot for citizens to offer their final word on the subject.
In a previous meeting, County Attorney David Clark urged the board set project and details before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in the TSPLOST.
Following the newly approved Intergovernmental Agreement, the county and both cities have individually approved the following list under “Transportation Purpose” as items to be accomplished by the TSPLOST:
Road, street, and bridge purposes, including but not limited to: (i) acquisition of rights of way for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (ii) construction of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (iii) renovation and improvement of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths, including resurfacing; (iv) relocation of utilities for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (v) improvement of surface-water drainage from roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vi) patching, leveling, milling, widening, shoulder preparation, culvert repair, and other repairs necessary for the preservation of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (vii) roadside mowing; (viii) intersection improvements; (ix) road striping; (x) road signage; (xi) borrow pit materials used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; (xii) a capital outlay project or projects consisting of any of the foregoing to be owned, operated, or administered by the sate and located, in whole or in part, in Gilmer County; (xiii) equipment used for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths; and (xiv) all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.
Furthermore, in that same meeting, County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.
Despite this, several work sessions, regular meetings, and special called meetings have been held along the process offering citizens information on the subject. Additionally, the county has more meetings upcoming to speak with Commissioners such as this weeks Wednesday, February 12, Work Session at 9:00 a.m. and Thursday, February 13, Regular Meeting at 6:00 p.m.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The final steps are being prepared for the coming vote for a TSPLOST in May as East Ellijay City Council approves their resolution for an intergovernmental agreement.
This intergovernmental agreement is set to support the TSPLOST if approved on the May voting ballot. This agreement approves of the TSPLOST and the city’s percentage of the tax collection.
In January, a special called meeting between all three entities set the split for the TSPLOST as such, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.
The item now goes back to the Commissioners to approve the intergovernmental agreement on their end before officially moving forward to the next steps.
Much debate has been put forth on the topic of the TSPLOST tax in Gilmer County. And, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective and opinion, there is still much to come. Yet, it seems much of the arguments swirling over the topic center on the idea that its already done, and that’s just not true.
The Board of Commissioners has voted and approved the TSPLOST to appear on the ballot. That does not mean that this tax is already a done deal. There is a vote, there is a chance, there are weeks of opportunity. If you have any opinion on whether or not there is to be an extra penny on your sales tax in this county, if you have any thoughts on this topic, then there is a chance to make your choice. Even if you have never voted in an election before, even if you think it doesn’t matter who sits in a seat on congress 65 miles away in Atlanta or 650 miles away in Washington D.C., this is the time to directly influence one tax that directly affects you.
There is no reason we should be treating this TSPLOST like its already passed. Even members of the board themselves have at least said they don’t care if it passes or not. The topic at hand is if you want to pay more now to accomplish something quicker. Sooner or Later?
There has been a mass of information offered on the subject from its official inception at a town hall meeting to debates on the efficacy to negotiations with the city to plans for the road department. While they continue to deliberate the deeper details defining this discretional tax, you as a citizen are the one who definitively determines the destiny of this decision. Do not take this as done deal.
There is time as the Commissioners finalize the ballot question and projects attached to it for citizens to continue speaking for or against the TSPLOST. There is time to consider the benefits of it as well as the costs. But this is coming to the ballot and being voted on. Not offering your vote is simply a statement that you do not care. You do not care about your money. And it’s not a statement to the government, it is not a statement to the Board of Commissioners that you don’t care. It is a statement to yourself, that you are passive. You are a sheep, and you will allow these people to impose anything they want on you.
If you support it and you want to see progress sooner and are willing to pay for it, then vote that way. If you are against it, and you see it as impatience of those unwilling to wait for it, then vote that way. More importantly, discuss it, talk with people. Share your thoughts and ideas. Debate and convince each other. Do not let anger overtake the debate, but instead understand and counterpoint. And stop talking like this topic is already closed.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With some citizens’ concerns rising over the coming vote for the 2020 TSPLOST, more details are emerging about the tax, what it will be used for, and what items will bear the tax.
According to the Single County TSPLOST Guide document posted by the ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia), there are six items that are exempt from taxation on the law. (See O.C.G.A 48-8-269)
• The sale or use of any type of fuel used for off-road heavy-duty equipment, off-road farm or agricultural
equipment, or locomotives;
• The sale or use of jet fuel to or by a qualifying airline at a qualifying airport;
• The sale or use of fuel that is used for propulsion of motor vehicles on the public highways*;
• The sale or use of energy used in the manufacturing or processing of tangible goods primarily for resale;
• The sale or use of motor fuel for public mass transit; or
• The purchase or lease of any motor vehicle
As stated in their website, “ACCG is a nonprofit instrumentality of Georgia’s county governments. Formed in 1914 with 19 charter county members, today ACCG serves as the consensus building, training, and legislative organization for all 159 county governments in the state.”
So while vehicle purchases and most fuel purchases are exempt from the sales tax, it seems that all other purchases are included. It is our understanding that this does also include basic bills like groceries, water, propane fuel, electricity, and even cable and internet as they are not listed in the exemptions.
Furthermore, Gilmer Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris offered a few more insights as FYN received answers to a few questions after a Special Called Meeting in January.
Paris has noted across several meetings the progress the road department has made in recent years and the progress still needed to be in the shape he wants them to be. He has also stated that he doesn’t personally mind if the 2020 TSPLOST passes or not as he sees that progress continuing in that department. Rather, Paris has stated that he feels the TSPLOST is an answer to a rising issue as people are wanting to see more immediate results and progress. The TSPLOST, according to Paris, can accomplish in 5 years what will happen over the next 25 years.
This time, Paris offers a few more details as he says the county will be looking to pave gravel roads with the TSPLOST, thereby reducing the costs of maintaining these gravel roads. Paris said, “The end objective is, at the end of that 5 years, to have a road system that is in good enough shape and requires little enough maintenance that we can maintain it properly with the resources that we have.”
Many times he has noted how heavy rains devastate some of the gravel roads in the county which adversely affects the Road Department’s efforts and schedule to maintain all 500 miles of roads in the county.
The main focus of this TSPLOST is actually becoming clearer to transform the Road Department. Paris says that by paving the gravel roads, they would change from having motor-graders to pothole patchers, from attempting to do everything for roads to contracting asphalt paving and focusing the Road Department on tar and chip paving, and from one central road department to quadrant bases focused on their sections of the county.
On that last point, Paris said, “Ideally, what I would like to have, would be a base in all four quadrants of the county and have that base work exclusively within that quadrant… We can’t do that right now. We don’t have the resources to set up those bases. We don’t have the equipment to man four bases.”
Paris went on to say that an option with the 2020 TSPLOST could help set up those bases if they decide to take that direction. However, the idea is unfeasible currently as the county would need the workers and a lot more equipment to spread around the county than it currently possesses. Paris did call this option an ideal situation and something to work towards.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Paving roads and the amount of spending came into debate as the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners met with Mayors and members of City Hall from both Ellijay and East Ellijay today to discuss TSPLOST negotiations.
The discussion centered on the split that each entity wanted to see with the upcoming possible TSPLOST tax. Each entity vied for an increase to their portion over and above what they got for the previous SPLOST split. Debate arose around the idea of the cities increasing to a flat 2 percent for East Ellijay and 6 percent for Ellijay. This would be up from the 1.93 percent that East Ellijay has with the SPLOST split and up from 5.72 percent that Ellijay has.
However, as the discussion progressed, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he also wanted the county’s percentage to go up considering the 500 miles of road in the unincorporated parts of the county, roads maintained by the county.
The two mayors countered with arguments of their own. Mayor of Ellijay, Al Hoyle noted that many of the roads they maintain in the city are used more than those in the outer parts as people travel out of town on city-maintained roads to reach the county roads.
East Ellijay Mayor Mack West added to the notion saying that East Ellijay has a constant need for Eller Road as an example. Due to the high traffic and usage, the road is already showing cracks after only three years since paving.
However, the topic ultimately came to rest at proceeding with the same split that each entity sees on the normal SPLOST, Gilmer County receives 92 percent, Ellijay receives 5.72 percent, and East Ellijay receives 1.93 percent.
However, the negotiations of percentage were not the only discussion held in the meeting as citizens debated the TSPLOST in the Citizens Wishing to Speak section.
Bill Craig, of North Georgia Diamond, voiced his opinion that the retail business community may have been left out of the discussion on the topic. Saying that the county hasn’t considered the impact to businesses that more sales tax might have. He offered scenarios to consider that people visiting might go elsewhere or stop early to buy groceries or similar necessities if they visit Ellijay, or that someone might visit another county to buy larger items like his store provides, being jewelry and diamonds.
While Paris did say he met with one retailer privately to discuss the topic, Craig repeated that he felt the county had not done enough to understand the business impact.
Mayor West commented on possible impact saying if he was going to buy something like a diamond, he would shop with North Georgia Diamond over driving to Atlanta for only a $100 difference, coming from the 1 percent sales tax increase.
Craig went on to say that adding TSPLOST would make Gilmer one of the highest sales tax percentages in the state.
In fact, according to the Georgia Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart (pictured to the right) published, for January 2020, by the Georgia Department of Revenue, of the 159 counties in Georgia, just over half of them have an 8 percent sales tax.
Actually, 83 counties have an 8 percent sales tax, while 69 counties (including Gilmer) have a 7 percent sales tax, 4 counties have a 6 percent sales tax, and only one county, Ware County, has a 9 percent sales tax. This does exclude Fulton and DeKalb counties with split sales tax in parts of the county according to this document.
Also, there are 87 counties that currently have some form of a TSPLOST, whether it is the original state TSPLOST or a locally added TSPLOST after that statewide vote.
Looking more specifically to the Highway 515 corridor, as some have called it, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, and Union Counties all, currently, have a sales tax rate of 7 including LOST (Local Option Sales Tax), SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), and ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).
One more comment of major note came from Chairman Paris who said, “I’m fine with it either way,” when discussing if the TSPLOST will pass on the ballots. Paris admitted a large amount of pressure on him from the public. He has stated in previous meetings that he feels the road department and the county’s roads are progressing. He ultimately simplified the discussion and the TSPLOST vote as he summed it up by saying its a decision on if we want our roads fixed over the next 25 years or the next 5 years. The TSPLOST, as he described, is simply a way to achieve the same results faster.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is advertising a meeting early in the new year with the city governments of Ellijay and East Ellijay.
This Special Called Meeting, set for January 7, 2020, at 10 a.m., has only one agenda item, “Discussion and possible action of Intergovernmental Agreement for a proposed T-SPLOST with the Cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay.”
The meeting is actually set the day before the county is set to hold its January Workshop, scheduled for January 8, 2019, at 9 a.m.
While not fully confirmed, the county has held similar meetings in the past when discussing their SPLOST renewal in 2018 where they negotiated each of the cities’ percentage that they would take from the tax. At that time, it was confirmed that the county could have moved forward without the cities, but noted several benefits to cooperating and negotiating their involvement.
With the TSPLOST, there has been no specific discussion on the need, benefits, or reason for involving the cities since the Board already approved the TSPLOST to go for a vote on the ballots without them. However, County Attorney David Clark did say at that meeting that the county needed to finalize details and work on a few more items before they would be ready to put it on the ballot.
In any scenario, at this time, it appears the county will be reaching out to the cities for their support of or involvement in the TSPLOST in the coming week.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unanimous vote this week from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave final approval to put a new tax of TSPLOST to public vote in the new year as they prepare to address Roads and Bridges issues.
The new tax will be a TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) specifically designed to bring in new funding to address the 501 miles of paved roads within Gilmer County that the county is responsible for paving and maintaining.
Citizens have been debating this issue in earnest since November 13 when a Roads and Bridges town hall meeting turned to a TSPLOST discussion after Commission Chairman Charlie Paris put the idea forth saying he could not find any alternative to address the issues as quickly as people have been wanting. However, the discussion has been going in the BOC since budget sessions and talks of shrinking the contingency fund in late October and early November.
This week, the Chairman said that the recent Post 1 Commissioner campaign really “stirred the pot.” The campaign highlighted an issue that many people understood that progress was being made slowly. Now, people are getting more vocal about the issues. Paris said, “And they’re right. We need to do something about this.”
The board appears to agree that raising the millage rate to fund the roads is completely out of the question. Instead of raising the taxes of the millage rate, a new TSPLOST tax is coming forward to be voted on by the public.
As discussion from the work session continued on the TSPLOST, the commissioners discussed the difference between the TSPLOST and continuing as-is. The major note came to be speed. Paris has stated several times since November that he believes the progress will continue as they strengthen the road department. Paris said this week that a TSPLOST will allow us to accomplish over the next 5 years what we will accomplish over the next 25 years.
Also mentioned in the meeting, Paris said he believes the option of bonding the TSPLOST is out. He explained that if approved the county will pursue rights of way, begin collections that are allocated quarterly, and citizens would really see a big effort increase in the Road Department by Spring of 2021. In fact, Paris said later in the meeting, “If these folks approve this TSPLOST, I am going to be paving in the Spring of 2021.”
This discussion also restated Paris’ desire to switch future projects in the county to start bidding out asphalt paving projects across LMIG and new projects and having the Road Department continue with tar and chip and other roads.
County Attorney David Clark urged the commissioners to continue talks in the coming months to focus and list all possible projects for the TSPLOST as the discussion has ignored the bridge issues in the county, many of which have come from failures in the maintenance of those bridges
Paris clarified that while they have not been specifically mentioned, thoughts for bridges has definitely been on his mind.
Still, Clark said the board should get their projects set and details set before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in a TSPLOST.
With approval to be put on the ballot done, many questions are still out there on the topic. Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.
Additionally, estimated collections are still to be calculated and details worked out for the coming vote.
Newly elected Post 1 Commissioner, Hubert Parker also spoke in the meeting saying, “You’ve identified the situation and the options. SPLOST is the only tax I know of where the voters have a direct voice rather than going through an elected representative. So, I think it’s up to them…”
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With August fast approaching, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has officially approved the advertisement of their Millage Rate for the year.
Accepting the Rollback Rate at 6.898 mills, a 0.085 mill drop from the current 6. 983, the Commissioners will still realize a decrease of $119,582 between the two rates, according to Financial Officer Sandi Holden.
The Rollback Rate was not the first motion, however. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller first made a motion to maintain the current millage rate despite the state forcing them to call it an increase saying, “For the last five years… we have held that same millage rate constant. I like that and I believe that is some good history because we have fought the battle through the depression and recession and things… We have done what I consider the best job we knew how to do managing what money we get from our citizens.”
Miller went on to say there was only one reason to not keep the current rate. The same debate they have gone through every year at the time to set millage rate. The state forces the county to call it a tax increase even though they do not increase the rate.
Miller also noted that the Board of Commissioners and the Tax Assessors are separated on taxes. Miller made certain to note that even if the Commissioners accept the Rollback Rate, it doesn’t mean that no citizen will see a tax increase from their assessments.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris countered with a similarly repeated thought over the past years when he said that if he did vote to accept what would be called a tax increase, he wanted it to be worth more than what this rollback represents.
As the first motion failed due to the lack of a second, Paris made a motion to accept the Rollback Rate. It was seconded and approved 2-1 with Miller being the dissenting vote.
While discussion did move to the possibility of lowering the Bond Millage with the improving economic health in the county, the official motion came to maintain the rate as it currently sits.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Tax Assessors voted to roll back their recent decision on House Bill 1383, which was given the green light during their meeting held on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
This bill ultimately determines what structures on a property are exempt for those 65 years of age or older in regards to the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes.
The board did as they informed the public they would do and got advice from Attorney Joe Scheuer of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia regarding the interpretation of the law.
In a three-page document to the board, Scheuer stated that “I believe this question involves a determination that must be made on a case by case basis locally”, but went on to say that “Homestead includes the following qualifications: The actual permanent place of residence, where the building is occupied primarily as a dwelling. In other words, with respect to the home, the exemption is limited to that structure so that attached structures are included; garage, deck, etc. Other structures, such as detached garages, gazebos, etc. are not included. Detached structures, to my knowledge, have never been included as part of the building which is occupied as the primary dwelling, or at least they were not supposed to have been included.”
However, because what this attorney says differs from what the state legislative liaison has said on the matter, County Attorney David Clark believes the board needs an opinion from the attorney general.
Ultimately, due to the two conflicting readings and two entirely different opinions as to how the tax code should be implemented, the board voted in favor of rolling back the decision to uphold the new changes, continuing with the way things were in 2018 until the board receives further clarification.
The issue with this decision, as the board pointed out, is that structures of business such as chicken houses, barns, etc. will be exempt of the school system taxes as they were in 2018.
But because of the deadlines involved, the board decided it would still be easier just to go with the 2018 interpretation without modification.
No further public mailings are required on behalf of the board because of this decision.
The board will be re-examining the definitions of the bill in the near future and hopes to have a definitive interpretation by 2020, so be sure to stay tuned for future updates!
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – House Bill 1383 was the topic of much debate during the Board of Tax Assessor’s meeting on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
Up until adoption of this bill, those who were 65 years of age or older were exempt from paying the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes on their property.
This is still in place. However, this no longer exempts structures that are not considered to be the primary dwelling place of the property owner.
As Chief Appraised Theresa Gooch explained, the interpretation of this bill “Does not include any buildings not attached to the primary residence. It still exempts 100% on the primary home, all of the land and any structures that are attached by a common roof line.”
In short, structures not attached to your home by the roof line are no longer tax exempt.
This would include structures such as wood sheds, barns, out houses, green houses, etc. Whereas in the past, all structures on the entire property were exempt.
According to County Attorney David Clark, “the state is the entity that has guided the board to the specific definition as to what constitutes a homestead.”
The board explained “No one here was associated with the implementation of this bill in ’08. But it was implemented simply by applying the exemption to anyone over 65 who applied for appeals and asked for a homestead. Chicken houses, business’, etc. things that clearly didn’t belong in a homestead were caught up in it. The chicken houses and business’ were cleaned up shortly after that ’08 thing. I don’t even recall what brought this to our attention. But the law says under the definition of the state statute that the dwelling is the exempt item. The land and the residence.”
When asked why it took so long for the board to bring this up, they responded that they honestly weren’t sure, and that it just didn’t come to their attention prior.
Many citizens present were very against this change, however.
Many are concerned that the board simply wants nothing more than to tax them more, with one citizen stating “My neighbor has the same roof line. He has a horse barn. Now we’re not taxing it because it shares the same roof line? What’s next? I move my daughter in the basement, now I’m not occupying it, she is, so you’re going to tax my basement for that? That’s where we could go if we continue to let you erode our rights here. This isn’t right. Let’s stay where we’re at. Manage the money we already give you, and not try to take more away from us. It’s difficult enough as it is living on a fixed income.”
The board voted in favor of this bill under the grounds that they have no choice at this point in time due to digest and submission process timelines.
However, citizens have until Monday, July 1, 2019 to file an appeal with the board, which will likely go to the Board of Equalization and potentially the superior court.
The board also states that they will re-address this issue and give full clarification from the proper state authorities by Tuesday, January 1, 2020.
Stay tuned for developments on this bill as they become known!
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