Commissioners discuss limiting 2020 spending

Board of Commissioners, News
property taxes increase non-critical state of emergency 2020 Budget

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga – Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Earl Johnson, and Post Two Glenn Patterson were in total agreement about suspending non-critical capital improvement projects for the foreseeable future.

“We know the cost potentially is going to go up potentially for what we have to deal with and most certainly revenue coming in. Our LOST and SPLOST can be impacted,” stated Helton. “For non-critical capital improvement projects, I would recommend that we suspend those until we have a better idea for the next two to three months when we start getting better information on what’s happening with our revenue and how that’s going to impact our budget.”

These projects wouldn’t be canceled just tabled until Fannin County can make an accurate estimate about costs and revenue for the future. Until COVID-19 hit the United States, the county experienced continual growth in LOST and SPLOST collections.

Gov. Kemp extended his shelter in place for medically fragile and senior citizens as well as extended Georgia’s Public Health Emergency until June 12. These actions will also affect county revenue as many individuals are still confirmed to their homes. However, short-term rentals can now book guests. The ban expired on Friday and due to Kemp’s executive order, counties can’t enact legislation to strengthen or lessen the gov’s actions.

“Yes, with all the uncertainty, we just don’t know what is going to happen in the future,” affirmed Patterson. “We do not need to put any more undue stress on the citizens and the system. I think it would be a wise move at this time.”

“I believe we do not need to spend a single dollar that is not necessary at this point,” Johnson stated. “I don’t think we need to spend any money at all that is not necessary. I think it’s a good idea, and I think it’s absolutely critical that we move in that direction right now.”

Helton added that the issues can be addressed one at a time. Before the next commission meeting on May 12, department heads are asked to inform them of any critical spending needs. If an essential project is identified, the commissioners will address it at the May 12 meeting.

“Hopefully when all this nears an end, we can get a better handle on it, but as we move forward just watch every penny that we have,” Johnson said.

As far as 2020 revenue thus far, the first quarter did continue to see overall growth.

SPLOST and LOST collections were up by 10 percent in the first quarter, but with the statewide shutdown and short-term rental ban, the second quarter most likely won’t experience a similar financial boom.

Overall, Fannin was operating four percent under budget from January to March. The total budget for 2020 is $28,563,575, and through March, departments should be 25 percent into their budgets. Some areas were over such as risk management at 27 percent. It includes health insurance, an area that continues to eat up everyone’s budgets as healthcare costs continue to rise.

The courthouse debt payment is also made during the first quarter. The budget expenditure is $1,120,000. The county paid half of the amount already. The second will be made later in the year.

“After this year, that would leave us at $1.1M on the debt of this courthouse, which has been a debt that has been out there for 16 to 17 years. It’ll be a great moment in the county when we get that long-term debt off our financials,” Helton affirmed.

A few other departments were over 25 percent. The fire department made its one-time lease payment for $61,000. EMS turned in extra overtime wages to the amount of $21,000. The detention center was over by one percent, or $14,000, because of pre-bought uniforms and wages, according to Helton. These overages should flatten out as the year progresses.

Johnson reminded department heads to be “very conservative as we possibly can at this moment to make sure that as we creep our way out of this that we can mitigate as much as we can the losses incurred throughout all taxes.”

Transparency obstructed at McCaysville City Council meeting

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – Mayor Thomas Seabolt tried to bring to an end the reading of the monthly bills, as new councilmember Gilita Carter had done at previous meetings since taking office.

Carter had stated in a previous meeting: “I’ve been coming to a lot of meetings and it always comes up, about paying the bills. Well, I often sit there and wonder, what bills? Whose bills?”

Click Here to read about previous meeting concerning McCaysville finances.

Since taking office Carter has read each line item of the monthly bills aloud to the public, but Seabolt put a stop to this by asking for a motion before Carter could address the public.

McCaysville, Fannin, Georgia, City Council, Transparency, Finance, Bills, Mayor, Attorney, Thomas Seabolt, Sue Beaver, Gilita Carter, Susan Kiker, Jason Woody, Larry Collis, Cortney Stuart, Expenditures

Council-member Gilita Carter and Mayor Thomas Seabolt exchange words over the city’s transparency.

“I just don’t want to take the time to read everything because they’ve already been approved through payment in a sense,” Seabolt spoke to Carter of his reasoning behind not continuing to read the individual bills submitted by city departments.

After asking for a motion to pay the bills with no further explanation, council-member Sue Beaver gave that motion, with fellow council-member Larry Collis gave a second. When asked all in favor Carter abstained along with council-member Susan Kiker.

“In the basis of transparency and in the fact that I stated before, that no one ever knew what the bills were, I will at least give the total for each department,” Carter said before reading each department’s total bills.

Mayor Seabolt responded to Carter’s reading of the totals by saying, “If they want a copy they can ask for public records.” 

This sparked a short exchange between Carter and Seabolt, with Carter ending, “I won’t read them individually any more, but for transparency purposes people need to know what the city bills are. Transparency is what I’m going to stand for.”

Council-member Jason Woody proposed having a print out of detailed monthly bills available for citizens at the regular monthly meetings.

Ultimately, Carter voted no to paying the bills to show opposition in how the City Council is handling getting the information to the public.

The department totals for bills in the month of Feb. are as follows:

  • Administration – $3,828.24
  • Police Department – $2,439.42
  • Court – $519.60
  • Street Department – $3,693.45
  • City Park – $295.39
  • Water and sewer – $29,889.85

Later in the meeting Carter proposed that the City put in place a system for filing expenditure reports and receiving reimbursement. Her proposal includes basing the City’s millage rate reimbursement on Federal standards and having clear cut forms so that reimbursement would be organized and uniform.

Another topic of financial discussion came about when City Attorney Cortney Stuart pointed out during the meeting that no resolution actually exists that requires spending over $500 to come before the council for approval.

This topic and the topic of expenditure reports are expected to be discussed by council in a workshop meeting.

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