Departments update the Board of Commissioners

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) received updates from several departments at the second monthly meeting held on Jan. 23.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Larry Joe Sosebee, Earl Johnson, Financial Director, Robin Gazaway

Board of Commissioners receive updates from several county departments.

The first to speak to the board was Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff. Ratcliff spoke of the recent severe weather experienced throughout the county and the impact on the county’s resources reserved for such scenarios.

“With temperatures being in the low teens, it made it pretty difficult to clear the roads,” Ratcliff spoke of the recent snow storm that closed county offices and Fannin County schools for several days.

Due to the recent freezing weather, Ratcliff reported that his department had used 300 tons of salt and 150 tons of the 89 gravel that the county had set aside, and that supplies of these would need to be replenished.

Ratcliff also reported that two vehicles in the Public Works department, a chipper and a Ford flatbed, were in need of repairs and would possibly have to be replaced in the near future.

“Our sign department made and replaced over 400 signs, street signs, this year.” Ratcliff updated.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned the cost of replacing signs, and Ratcliff replied that it varied but the approximate cost was around $35.00 per sign. Ratcliff also stated the department was increasing the height of many signs posted and this action had reduced the number of signs being stolen.

Ratcliff spoke of cuts made to the department and highlighted that salaries had been brought down by $500,000 from the previous fiscal year of 2016. Ratcliff added, “We’re still getting the same amount of work done.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Stan Helton addressed Ratcliff, “Just to reiterate what you’ve done here, if you go back a year ago, personnel wise and wages, you cut that in excess of 25 percent, and you’ve done it the right way.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal. Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee

Parks and Recreation Director Eddie O’Neal talks about Christmas Clash basketball tournament.

“What I see is more efficiency out there,” Helton added. “The folks that say you can’t shrink government, well you prove that you can.”

Eddie O’Neal, director of Fannin County Parks and Recreation, was second to update the BOC. O’Neal reported that 1,600 visitors had signed in and made use of the recreation facilities in the month of December.

“We also hosted our third annual Christmas Clash basketball tournament where we had 52 teams compete,” O’Neal spoke of the growth of this event.

Teams came from several counties within Georgia for this four-day event. O’Neal informed the board that the success of this event had generated nearly $15,000 in revenue.

O’Neal also spoke of the Summer Day Camp program, which continues to grow, and of additional services that might be offered this year. Parents who utilize the program have inquired of a later pick-up time.

Currently, children in the program would need to be picked up by 3 p.m. O’Neal suggested an extra charge to cover costs of keeping the facility open later so parents could pick up at 4 or 5 p.m.

The cost for two weeks of the Summer Day Camp program is $30.00, and an extra charge of $20.00 is being proposed for parents who wish to have a later pick up.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson was pleased with the transparency of revenues and purchases that is now being shown in frequent reports from the Parks and Recreation department, and Stan Helton added that he had received numerous calls from citizens that expressed their enthusiasm for the programs that the department has been adding.

“We’ve been approached by Faith Presbyterian Church. Those guys have always done what’s called a Seamless Summer food program,” O’Neal added to his update.

The Seamless Summer program provides food for children in need over the summer. Union County High School would prep meals for this program in the past, but will not be able to in 2018 due to renovations taking place over the summer break.

The department of Parks and Recreation has been approached to see if they could prep these meals while prepping their own meals for the Summer Day Camp program.

“We would like to help these guys out,” O’Neal went on. The program feeds a little over 200 kids during the summer and is funded via reimbursement from Bright from the Start, a Georgia state Department of Early Care and Learning.

No decision was made by the BOC regarding this proposal.

Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody notified the BOC that the Scrap Tire Removal Program has been a success and that the future dates scheduled for tire drop off have been cancelled.

FetchYourNews, Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Tax Assessors, Board of Assessors, Larry Joe Sosebee, Troy Junnier

Board of Assessors member Troy Junnier speaks on behalf of the tax assessors in hopes of getting new vehicles.

“We took over 6,000 tires in,” Woody spoke of the success of the program and adding, “We’ve expended our funds.”

Board of Assessors board member Troy Junnier spoke on behalf of the Tax Assessors Office asking for two replacement vehicles for the department.
“If you don’t allow us to get two more (vehicles), then it is going to cause us a big issue countywide,” Junnier stated, presenting his case to the board. “It’s going to cost all the county residents in the future higher taxes anyway.”

Discussions became heated as Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed that the department does not need new vehicles and should look into buying used.

Ultimately the board agreed to consider purchasing two used vehicles for the department with a spending limit of $20,000 per vehicle.

Johnson ended the exchange, “When I get done with these vehicles, I don’t want to hear anything from the tax assessors (about vehicles) ever again for my remaining three years.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Tax Assessors Confront County Commissioners

News
Fannin Court House

BLUE RIDGE, GA – What should have been a discussion about the proposed budget of the Tax Assessor’s office turned into confrontation as the department’s board members chose to confront Fannin County’s Board of Commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners held an all day budget workshop on Wednesday, September 20th. Department Heads proposed their office’s budgets for 2018 and worked with Commissioners for possible amendments.

The Tax Assessors Department was the last scheduled for the day. Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran was unable to attend. However, in her place was representative Darlene Ledford, Assessor Janie Bearden, and Chairman Lane Bishop.

The discussion began as all the others with the department working along with Commissioners to assess each line item and see where cuts could possibly be made. The first item in question was the budget for department education.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Stan Helton, Larry Joe Sosebee, Tax Assessor, Lane Bishop, Janie Bearden

Helton addresses the Tax Assessors.

With the line item asking for $46,000, Stan Helton wanted to clarify where that money would be  spent stating, “Gilmer is nowhere near that.”

With Cochran not present to answer, Helton just asked that notes be made so that a discussion with the department head could happen at a later date.

There was also a question as to the amount proposed for Operation Supplies. The new proposed budget asked for $52,000. That is a $30,000 increase from the current budget. Ledford and Bishop speculated that the cost could include a new vehicle.

Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned, “Are you talking about another one?”

This led to an exchange where Chairman Bishop exclaimed, “Another one? You haven’t given us one in two years.”

Sosebee replied, “You have a fleet of them sitting out there.”

The two Tax Assessor board members that were present explained that they felt that the current vehicles were unreliable, claiming that only two of the six were operational, and that three were currently at the county shop for repairs.

Bishop complained that the turnaround time to get a vehicle repaired was too long. Backed by Assessor Bearden, Bishop stated that three vehicles had been at the shop for weeks, and wanted to know if they could seek a private vendor for maintenance on their vehicles.

Sosebee and Helton were surprised to hear this, stating they had not been previously made aware. Helton asked that they give him specifics on the vehicles, when they were dropped off, and he would look into it immediately.

Helton took this time to explain his reason as to why two more board members had been appointed to the Board of Tax Assessors. He felt that this board was very important as it has the responsibility of assigning approximately $3 billion within the county.

He felt that if one or two members of the original three member board were no longer able to fulfill their duties it would leave a “huge hole to fill and that puts the county at risk.”

Assessor Janie Bearden confronted Helton saying that they weren’t upset with the new board appointees, but with the manner in which it was handled. She felt that Helton should have spoke with them at one of their board meetings before making the appointments.

Helton explained, “I don’t come there to make comments or to get things out of line. I come there to listen and learn. And I’m sorry if you don’t like the way I made that decision. I made it, and I would do it again.”

This statement caused conversation to shift with Bishop focusing on Helton’s comparison of Fannin County’s Tax Assessor Department with that of surrounding counties. Bishop said, “I, as acting chairman, right now, I would welcome any kind of comments you’ve got.”

Bishop went on, “Just like this budget, we cut this thing to the bones trying to save the county money.”

Helton listed the budgets for some of our surrounding counties. Gilmer County’s budget being $812,000. He then asked why Fannin County’s was currently $1,019,581.

Bishop replied that the comparison needed to be apples to apples, and Helton explained that Gilmer has 29,000 parcels. Fannin County has 26,000. Gilmer is also dealing with a consent from the state, which Fannin just overcame. Helton said, “That is definitely an apples to apples comparison.”

Helton pointed out that the new proposed budget of the department in Fannin County was approximately $1,095,000, a $76,000 increase from the 2017 budget.

The Commissioners did follow through on their promise to look into the situation of vehicles not being repaired in a timely manner. Both Zach Ratcliff of the County Roads Department and Dawn Cochran, Chief Appraiser, confirmed that the vehicles had been repaired and returned about a week prior to the meeting.

 

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Fannin County Tax Assessor update could indicate a roll back on millage rates

News

The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on June 27th 2017.

The meeting agenda included  Dawn Cochran – Chief Appraiser for the Fannin County Tax Assessors, who gave a Tax Assessor update.

Cochran began her update with presenting the Commissioners a 2013 verses 2016 audit sales ratio study and stated they had received the 2016 study from Department of Audits on June 27th.  She had compiled a summary to explain where Fannin had been and where it currently stood in relation to the audits.  In 2013 the Fannin overall ratio study was at 35.31 and has now come up to a 38.79.  The residential ratio study was a 35.49 and for 2016 sales has now come up to 38.45.   The COD which is the coefficient of dispersion was a 19.54 and is now a 14.90.   The PRD was a 105.02 and is now a 102.89.  Acceptable ranges were provided to the Commissioners and so for the 2015 Department of Audit all of the categories were in line, within the range.

When it comes to coefficient of dispersion, (COD), the Georgia Department of Revenue regulations currently allow a COD of up to .20 for non-residential properties, and a .15 for residential properties.  The COD actually measures fairness or uniformity.  Based upon a review, the Commissioner will approve a digest when it is found to be reasonably uniform and equalized by having met the following state standards:

  •  The average level of assessment for each class of property meets the mandated state standard of 36% to 44%;
  •  The average measure of overall equalization, the coefficient of dispersion, meets the state standard of 15% or less for residential properties and 20% or less for all other property classes; and
  •  The bias ratio, or statistical measure of price‐related differential, meets the state standard of 95% to 110%.

The Coefficient of Dispersion – the statistical representation of equalization.   The Price-Related Differential – the statistical measure of assessment bias. This demonstrates whether lower or higher-priced properties are more accurately assessed.

The second part of the tax update was a sample of actual 2013 Sales ratio study showing residential and Agriculture, Commercial & Industrial were grouped together.  The third part of the summary was an actual letter from the Department of Revenue.

The letter stated the issues with Fannin County’s Residential COD being out of line in 2010 and also out of line in 2013 (2010 it was a 21.08 and 2013 it was a 19.54) and in order to be in line it has to be a 15 or less.  This year it actually fell at 14.90.  The 2013 Ratio Study was out of line also coming in at a 35.31 that number now is a 38.79.  The letter explained Fannin County was facing a $130,000 dollar fine.  The Board of Assessor and the Board of Commissioners elected to enter into a consent order with the Department of Revenue in order to gain additional time to correct the deficiencies.  

Cochran said, “We’ve all been waiting to see where these numbers fall and in 2016 they did fall within the guidelines.”

The last part of the update Cochran provided the 2013 county portion of the net digest verses the 2017.  The 2017 is preliminary right now because they are still in the point of assessment notices and 30 day tracking right now.  She asserted the appeal process was going really well stating they had approximately 250 appeals and were still conducting the site visits.  They have 10,000 or less left to look at out of the 27,000 parcels.  They have seen quite a bit of increase in values and the majority of those assessment notices which have gone up were instances where taxpayers had not been paying for everything to begin with, for example they hadn’t been paying for a garage or basement square footage.  If you do have questions on your assessment she encourages you to come by the Tax Assessors office so they can review your account for accuracy.

Fannin County Commission Chair Stan Helton felt the big take away from the update was in 2013 Fannin was below the State requirement and is now,  in 3 years,  in the acceptable range and also this should remove them from the consent order.  Helton said it reflected a lot of hard work the last few years to basically get the County out of trouble and keep the State from trying to take it over.  Cochran thanked her staff and the Commissioners for helping work through the difficulties.

Helton asked, “So is it a fair statement to say that the three of us here will sometime in the near future going to have to look at giving a millage decrease and some tax relief to the citizens of the County?”  Cochran answered, “I think so, with the increase of the value of our actual digest value, the increase there, I think the School Board and the Commissioners should be taking a look at that and seeing if they can roll back the mill rate…”  Helton responded with, “This is big news!”

Cochran expects to hear from the Department of Revenue about the consent order being removed probably mid-July since they were waiting on these current numbers.  Everything was contingent on the numbers meeting their criteria.

Post Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “I’m glad to get back in compliance because I know since I’ve been here this has been an issue. It’s one of the issues I hope we will have behind us and never surfaces again.  You all did a good job.  We already had the cheapest millage rate in Georgia now we are definitely going to have the cheapest, maybe.”

Helton thanked Cochran and the Assessor Board stating it had been a lot of work on their shoulders and thanked everyone for their involvement.  So this could indicate good news for Fannin County property owners who may enjoy a lower mill rate in the near future.

Property_Tax_Administration_Annual_Report_2016

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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