CFO Estimates Budget Savings from Reinsurance Speculation

News, Police & Government
Reinsurance

Blue Ridge, Ga – CFO Robin Gazaway estimated that the county saved between $100,000 to $300,000 in reinsurance based on former CFO estimates.

Risk management’s budget was 85% into the operating budget for the year. Gazaway adjusted the presentation of the information with auditor’s permission to subtract the reinsurance money that the county receives for this expenditure.

Gazaway stated that she did a little research regarding the budget, and based on the information she found in the newspaper, she estimated that the county saved up to about $300,000.

“What was projected to cost the county and what was actually cost the county last year, we saved up to $300,000,” said Gazaway, “Again, I don’t have all the facts so I can’t tell you exact number, it could be less, it could be a little more, but I’m pretty sure it’s anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000.”

This amount is after the reinsurance paid everything for the year. Gazaway only had articles to base her estimations off of from that previous year.

Post One Glenn Patterson asked for confirmation about the savings amount from last year.

Gazaway confirmed that it only speculated savings from 2018, and it could be different this year based on the reinsurance money the county receives.

Post One Earl Johnson wanted to know when the commissioners could find out about the precise number of savings for the year.

Gazaway stated, “We can’t know that number precisely. That was just something that Mrs. Kirby had anticipated that I had read in one of the newspapers, that she had anticipated that the 2017-2018 costs would be $2.3M. If you’re not fully-insured, you won’t know what that number is unless you are fully insured.”

“So your numbers are off someone else’s numbers?” asked Johnson.

“Yes, sir, it was published in the paper. I just went by what was published in the paper,” explained Gazaway.

According to Gazaway, if an organization doesn’t have a history of being fully insured, then it can’t be predicted. She believed that Mrs. Kirby went by numbers that Kirby’s agent provided and made calculations based off of that information.

Mrs. Kirby was the county’s former CFO.

Fannin County administration was 58% into the budget through July 2019 with a couple of departments showing over. The Fire department, EMS, and Sheriff’s Office all had large lease prepayments or one time expenditures cited as the reasoning behind the overages. The jail cited inmate care such as medical and food for its increased expenses.

$60,000 for the fire department’s lease payment and another $64,000 occurred after the unexpected sale of property for the fire station, which resulted in unanticipated expenditures.

Public Works, Building Maintenance, and Tax Assessor reported under budget.

 

“I know it doesn’t show as generated revenue, like the recreation department,” stated Patterson, “I think that would be better, so at least, we could see the generated revenue for the sale.”

Hotel and motel reported lower than expected due to Mrs. Jackson not being in the office and will be reported more accurately next month.

SPLOST up 10 percent from this time last year.

Director of Recreation Eddie O’Neal presented three quotes for the replacement of the department’s maintenance truck. The old truck had over 200,000 miles on it and needed a new transmission. The lower bid from North Georgia Ford of $25,643 received unanimous approval for the purchase.

McCaysville holds public hearing for proposed budget

Community, News
McCaysville, Georgia, Ga, Budget, 2019, 2020, fiscal year, city council, mayor, Larry Collis, Sue Beaver, Rodney Patterson, Richard Wagner,Tommy Quintrell, Thomas Seabolt, SPLOST, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Administration, Police Department, Street Department, City Park, Municipal Court, Water Distribution, Sewer, Water Treatment Plant

McCaysville, Ga. – The McCaysville City Council held a public hearing on Aug. 29 to discuss the city’s 2019 – 2020 budget.

Read by McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt, the resolution to adopt the 2019 – 2020 budget was met with no opposition by citizens who were present for the hearing.

According to the proposed budget the City General Fund is projecting a revenue of $1,455,526.00 and projecting expenses to be $1,455,526.00. Similarly the city’s Water and Sewer Service is projecting a revenue of $2,105,450.00 and projecting expenses to run $2,105,450.00.

These projections give the City of McCaysville a balanced budget for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year that will end June 20, 2020.

“I think the budget’s wonderful,” Councilmember Sue Beaver shared her opinion of the proposed budget noting that the city needs everything that is in the expenditures in order to function.

Points of interest in the budget include the following departments:

Administrative proposed budget : $234,259.00

Police Department proposed budget : $585,047.00

Street Department proposed budget : $245,615.00

City Park proposed budget : $374,250.00

Municipal Court proposed budget : $16,355.00

Water Distribution proposed budget : $1,614,995.00

Sewer Collection and Disposal proposed budget : $389,455.00

Water Treatment Plant proposed budget : $101,000.00

 

General Fund projected revenue : $1,455,526.00

 

SPLOST projected revenue : $333,020.00

SPLOST Capital Outlay proposed expenditures : $202,500.00

The proposed budget for the City of McCaysville 2019 – 2020 fiscal year is expected to be voted in unanimously on Sep. 10 at the councils’ next regular monthly meeting.

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Health Insurance Claims Busting 2019 budget

Featured, Police & Government
insurance claims

Blue Ridge, Ga – July financial report informed commissioners that insurance claims blew 2019 risk management budget by 37 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway delivered her monthly financial update for 2019 through June. Several departments were over budget six months into the year. Some departments carried pre-payments for leases from the beginning of the year.

Gazaway also met with all department heads to address line items individually.

However, Risk Management went 37 percent over budget, outpacing overages in other departments.

budget

Expenditures as of June 2019.

Health insurance claims represented the bulk of Risk Management expenditures. Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, asked “what are we looking at as far as curtailing it. We’re already way over what we budgeted?

The new insurance policy which took effect on July 1 should help reduce the expense. The insurance company, who works with the county, expected with spouses coming off the policy that government could save over $200,000-$300,000 in insurance claims.

Gazaway stated, “We installed some new programs to hopefully keep employees healthier, but as far as claims go, that’s just when they go to the doctor.”

However, Gazaway doesn’t have the numbers of how many people stopped using county insurance in July. The number of claims was down from last year, but no guarantee about people’s health for the rest of the year.

In 2017, the fund balance covered the overages. However, if insurance claims continue to rise, then more health care changes could be coming for Fannin County employees or changing the entire insurance program.

“Certain people that have gone over a certain amount, reinsurance pays us back. We haven’t gotten some of that money back, but they will eventually if it’s the same people, give us money back, explained Gazaway, “We have a stopgap that we pay out before we get the money back.”

Currently, Fannin County has $200,000 in reinsurance claims.

“I’m very concerned about this number,” stated Johnson, “I’m not trying to be hard-nosed. I don’t deal with numbers where I just sit here and hope. It’s like me hoping none of my guys wreck today. I know what the cost could be if they all decide to hit each other.”

Gazaway assured that all the reinsurance money back from some employees, but has to go over the stopgap first. At the year-end, the county will get a check back if it spent over the maximum amount, which is $2.4M.

“I just budget less than that hoping we don’t have to spend that money,” stated Gazaway.
2019 marked the third year Fannin County operated off a self-insured plan.

“The motivation to go to that in the first place was the anticipation that there would be savings, which hasn’t happened,” stated Chairman Stan Helton, “I guess a conventional insurance program, they would tell us the cost so we can allocate it that way…I don’t like it either. It’s the biggest variable cost in the whole budget.”

Johnson asked, “Can we buy the amount down?”

Gazaway offered to raise deductibles or out of pocket costs, but everything affects the employee. For the last three years, deductible and premiums have remained the same.

“At some point, we’re going to have to be competitive with other benefit plans,” said Johnson, “eventually the county might have to absorb some of the costs because everything that happens can’t directly affect the employee. Other

plans might be more attractive to an employee.”

The county also pays for tobacco cessation methods on the new plan, which means the county will spend more money in the short-term with hopes that future claims decrease. Currently, a two-week supply of patches costs around $30 and a two-week supply of nicotine gum cost $40.

Still, smokers are expected to pay an extra $50 on their insurance premium starting January 2020, and the county doesn’t cover cessation methods forever. Several tobacco users have informed Gazaway they will pay the $50, so county might not experience and expenses increase from covering cessation patches, gum, inhaler or lozenge.

SPLOST and LOST for 2019 continue to rise with SPLOST 10% ahead of 2018 intake at this time. Currently, the county’s budget even for the year, not under or over.

Recreation Department Improvements

Recreation Department Head Eddie O’Neal presented a bid for a TOPO survey of the park to fix drainage problems. The bid for $13,700 TOPO service provides Recreation Department with a starting point for creating solutions to heavy rains on soccer, baseball, and softball fields.

“Playing surfaces are lower than walking paths and parking lot, and it’s a continual fight to maintain,” said O’Neal,

“We can take the TOPO survey to engineers get help with drainage and what needs to happen on these fields.”

SPLOST funds will pay for improvements.

“We’ve had a considerable amount of rain,” stated Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson, “They wouldn’t be able to practice or play games.”

455 to 500 kids use those fields every year.

Board of Assessors Plan Out 2020 Budget, Plus Late Homestead Mailings

News, Tax Assessors

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Tax Assessors Plan Out 2020 Budget and Discuss Late Homestead Mailings during their meeting on Friday, July 12, 2019.

The board discussed personnel to finalize their budget plans, requesting $686,751.21 total for their 2020 budget.

If you’ve applied for a homestead exemption and you’ve yet to have it go through, this is because of a change in staffing and the board states that mailings have been sent out as of Monday, July 15, 2019.

As of now, the next meeting will be Friday, August 2, 2019 at 2 pm for anyone interested in attending.

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Expenses and Revenues Up in 2018 Audit

News
2018 audit

Blue Ridge, Ga – Rushton & Company presented 2018 audit findings and attempted to address the reasoning behind adjusting each line item at the end of the year.

The company’s representative Sam Latimer outlined 2018 audit and issued an unmodified opinion aka no areas for concern. However, left 12 comments for improvements in their report.

Overall, Fannin County Government behaved fiscally responsible according to the audit, not exceeding the operating budget. However, health insurance significantly overspent.

The operations budget took in $26,680,936M in net investment in capital assets, $6,639,299M in restricted assets, $9,304,456M in unrestricted assets, and $42,624,691 for a total net position.

2018 audit

Fannin County’s Net Position over the last three years.

Revenue over expenses for the year equaled $1,194,327, which occurred because of the increase in property and sales taxes. Property tax increased $229,000 and a total revenue increase of $740,000, most of that comes from sales tax. LOST is up $260,000, and title ad valorem increased by $186,669. Fines and forfeitures decreased by $175,000, and other revenues increased $80,000.

Expenditures increased by $1.1M, largely due to insurance claims. The health insurance claims accounted for $700,000, superior court increased around $100,000, and fire increased by $527,000, due to buying three new trucks.

The unassigned fund balance accounts for 6.7 months of operation with $10,314,184, which is considered great shape by the auditors. The state of Georgia requires counties to have at two to four months of operating expenses stored away.

General Fund growth over three years.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson questioned who made the recommendation and decision behind moving each line item at the end of the year.

“You’re here to just look at what we’re doing. Why are you helping move funds from one line to another?” asked Johnson.

Latimer explained that he just advises and management makes the final decisions. Rushton and Company make recommendations.

“Why are you helping CFO move numbers around,” questioned Johnson, “The reason why I am asking is because I think it’s part of my job.”

Rushton and Company has always made the three percent adjustments, and try to advise, but not make final decisions. Latimer stated he didn’t know why the final adjustment took place so late into the year this year.

Johnson stated that he would have loved to talk to Latimer before this meeting, but he never spoke to him or anyone from Rushton and Company this year. It’s difficult to understand the budget when you can add $500,000 to roads for one large adjustment at the end of the year. It suggests that maybe some budgets don’t need to be as large.

“Nothing raised a flag on my end,” said Latimer, “If adjustments should be done earlier and throughout the year, then that might need what we get to. The year-end adjustment then hopefully would be pretty small. We would come to you for approval of each adjustment. ”

Fannin Operating Two Percent Under Budget

News
2020 Budget

Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin County’s operating two percent under budget through April of 2019.

As of April 30, 33 percent of the budget’s been spent for the year with Fire/EMS/ EMA, Tax Assessor, Sheriff’s Office, and County Jail still showing over budget due to the first of the year lump sum lease and loan payments made at the beginning of the year.

Per the April 23 meeting, Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway broke out the Public Works and SPLOST Budget to provide more clarity about where the money comes from and is going.

Fannin County Board of commissioners budget

Several departments are still showing over for the year.

“The public works old SPLOST is because we’re going to use the old money on the roads until it runs out, and then we’ll start on the new SPLOST,” explained Gazaway.

Baseball admissions factored in slightly into the recreation budget, but the month of May was not reflected in this report.

“We’re two percent under budget because we’re making up some of the differences from earlier in the year,” stated Gazaway, “LOST and SPLOST collections are up again this month from the prior years.”

Thirty-three percent into the county’s operating budget as of April 30, 2019.

 

 

EMA Director Robert Graham advised choosing Custom Works for the ambulance remounts at $104,980 as the most acceptable vendor for the job. The business also priced an add-on door locking systems for the ambulance at $1,800, bringing the total to $106,780.

“The locking system on the doors on the box [will be] activated front door locks when we lock the front doors,” said Graham, “We need this because we make many trips out of town to hospitals, and we need to lock the back of the truck. Our drugs and equipment are all in the back.”

Currently, seven doors and compartments must be locked with a key when getting out of the truck, and EMA employees must remember to unlock these doors when going back out to have access to them.

“It would be a great benefit to add that to this truck and going forward in the future to the standard bid specs,” lobbied Graham.

The truck won’t be available until closer to 2020 due to Chevrolet chassis unavailability.

Graham also confirmed that the county wouldn’t be short on equipment during this time with back-up trucks and placing an order for a new ambulance to replace an aging one with 90,000 plus miles on it.

Next, Graham introduced bids for a new ambulance to be purchased in the 2020 and on that year’s budget. Currently, new ambulance models aren’t available, but a waiting list has formed for 2020. Graham wanted to go ahead and get Fannin’s EMA name on the list.

“If we don’t get a truck each year that we fall behind and have maintenance issues,” said Graham.

“You had this idea that it was better to go ahead and place an order with the stipulation that it wouldn’t be delivered until after the first [of the year] because in the past you wouldn’t get this new ambulance until fall,” explained Helton to the room.

MEDIX proposed $140,130 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1, 2020. Custom Trucks and Bodyworks offered $143,021 for a 2020 model Chevrolet with the delivery after January 1. ETR, LLC proposed $187,768 for a 2019 model Ford F-450 with the delivery after January 1.

The Commissioners approved Custom Works for remount and tabled the new ambulance bids after Graham asked for more time to review.

Waste Management decision was tabled again to give the commissioner’s more time to review Advanced Disposal Systems and CASH proposals after meeting with both organizations.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff experienced an equipment emergency after losing a 16-year-old mower in the middle of mowing season and had found a used replacement mower for $43,500 with 70,000 hours on it.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “The piece that [the used mower] is replacing, we salvage it and get rid of it. It’s got way too many hours to put any more money into it.”

Ratcliff stated that he had no plans to fix the old mower with over 100,000 hours in it already.
The emergency purchase puts the county back at 10 mowers and back on track with mowing for the spring and summer.

Tax Assessors are not working overtime without pay

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Comments made at a recent Fannin County Board of Assessors meeting led to misinformation being spread throughout the public about county employees having to work overtime without pay.

Fannin County Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran clarifies that none of her employees are working this overtime without pay and that her comments were misunderstood.

“No,” Cochran gave a simple answer when asked directly if the rumors were true and went on to explain where the misunderstanding of words had taken place.

Until recently, some employees of the office would arrive to work early and clock-in, but would focus on personal ventures rather than work related to the department.

These employees had never been paid for this time, according to Cochran, but it made for confusion in looking at time sheets.

“We made some changes. Lynn Doss gave us advisement and said what we would like for you to do is not let anybody clock in until 8 o’clock and don’t let anybody clock out until 5 o’clock” Cochran said of steps that have been taken to alleviate the confusion.

Cochran added, “If you’re here and you’re having your coffee, or your making your toast back there, do not clock in because it could be misconstrued.”

The Tax Assessor’s office has been able to move forward despite the reorganization of the department. The work of the department from Jan. 1 of this year to present has accounted for almost quarter of all site visits since 2018.

From 2018 to current the department has made 8,289 site visits, with 2,193 of these visits being completed in 2019.

The department has also handled 233 Conservation applications or inquiries and have processed 241 Homesteads.

Cochran updated the board on the changes made to job descriptions of each of the employees and the responsibilities that have been shuffled throughout the department, stating that there has been “a lot of give and take” and adding “everyone is working very good together”.

The department is on track to continue its appraisal process through a three year cycle, and Cochran noted that because of the hard work of her employees the process of building schedules is becoming easier.

“I’m very impressed with the staff and how they are doing under a stressful environment. They are doing fabulous,” Cochran said after informing the board that when she took over some schedule ratings were as low as 18 and through the work of her staff the ratings are now starting at 37.

Cochran updated that the transition in mapping has had some bumps in the road, with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) now handling mapping and rural land schedules, but her department working with the company to smooth out the process.

While there is still concern over workload within the department, Cochran stated of her concerns and her staff, “Every time I say that, they make it work. They pull it off.”

The Tax Assessor’s Office is expected to mail notices on June 14 and will continue to update on work status at the regularly scheduled monthly meetings.

 

 

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GMASS meets with Board of Assessors to discuss future plans

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Board of Assessors (BOA) called a one-on-one meeting with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS) to discuss the Tax Assessor’s office and the role that GMASS would potentially play in the future.

GMASS Chief Financial Officer Kristi Reese broke the ice by stating, “I feel like maybe there is some hostility between us because we don’t really know how all of this came about. We did not come into Fannin County with the intent of firing anybody or having anything of that nature done.”

Reese explained that GMASS is simply a company that can assist counties with appraisal work and in no way advocates or is responsible for the removal local office staff: “I do not want our name associated with any of that.”

Members of the BOA acknowledged that what Reese was saying was true and that they value the ongoing working relationship between GMASS and the Fannin County Tax Assessors.

“I think that the commissioners are trying to force something that they don’t truly understand every part, ” BOA board member Troy Junnier replied to Reese, “I think they are looking at just the money. They are not looking at everything that goes into that.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Board of Tax Assessors, Tax Assessors, Chier Appraiser, Land Development, GMASS, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Dawn Cochran, Janie Bearden, Troy Junnier, Mark Henson, Anthony Holloway, Angelina Powell, Marie Woody, Kristi Reece, Budget, Consent, Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services

The Board of Assessors sits down with representatives from GMASS to work out future plans for the Tax Assessor’s office.

Fannin County Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran added, “I personally know what it takes to run this office. The commissioners do not know what it takes to run this office. GMASS knows what it takes to do their part but does not know what it takes to do our county with our circumstances.”

The Board of Commissioners did make initial contact with GMASS requesting a bid for appraisal and maintenance services. This contact came about due to an inability for an agreement to be made regarding the budget of the Tax Assessor’s office.

Cochran stated bluntly of the move to hire GMASS, “In order for you all to come in and do your work, people would have to lose their jobs.”

Cochran explained that when Fannin County came under consent from the state of Georgia for not complying with regulations that the county opted then to fully staff the department instead of using GMASS at that time.

Now that the county is out from under the consent order Cochran added, “The timing of this is kind of a gut punch.”

Cochran acknowledged that the department has fallen a bit behind: “The Board of Assessors choose quality over quantity. So it has taken a little longer than expected.” She reasoned that the blame fell on the amount of work it took to come into compliance and the set back of her department not having enough vehicles to do this work.

“I feel like the commissioners are going to go forward with their budget cuts regardless of what we do here,” Reece stated of the direction of the BOA’s conversation. “I understand your concerns, but we don’t have control over anything at this point. We are just here to meet with you and calm some of your fears.”

Eventually the discussion veered toward what GMASS is able to provide the county. Cochran questioned GMASS of several areas including insurance, workload, and customer service.

Through this series of questions GMASS answered that they would be responsible for field appraisals and would complete one third of the county’s parcels each year keeping in compliance with state law.

Reece answered all questions leaving little doubt that GMASS is fully capable of completing their obligation as well as working side by side with the Tax Assessor’s office.

GMASS would essentially streamline the appraisal process, and Reece explained that this is because GMASS has staff to focus in specific areas. This is in contrast to the current staffing in most counties where appraisers must multitask in several areas.

Concern was expressed about customer service being provided, to which Reece replied that a GMASS representative would be happy to meet in person or discuss via phone with any taxpayer who has a question about their appraisal.

No action was taken at this meeting by the BOA regarding staffing of the office. Discussions are expected to continue at the next meeting to be held on Thursday, Dec. 13. The BOA and Board of Commissioners previously agreed to come to terms with a budget for 2019 by the end of this year.

 

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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