Fannin County School System aces SPLOST audit

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – An audit of the Fannin County School System’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collection and spending has shown that the district is being good stewards of these funds.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explained the purposes of the independent audit were a requirement by the state when SPLOST collections exceed $5 million within a county.

SPLOST collections for 2017 totaled approximately $5.1 million and collections for 2018 topped that number bringing in $5.6 million.

Finance Director Susan Holloway explained that the Fannin County School calendar year ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, and that collections during this period was the first fiscal school year that the system met the amount requiring an audit.

Georgia code section O.C.G.A.20-2-491 requires public school systems to maintain continuing performance audits for expenditures of sales tax.
Mauldin and Jenkins was selected to carry out the audit for the school system.

“They audit 40 school systems, including more schools in Georgia than any other firm. They also audit 53 counties including more counties in Georgia than any other firm, and they audit 112 cities including more cities in Georgia than any other firm,” Holloway said explaining the reason for choosing Mauldin and Jenkins and added, “We felt they were solid.”

The audit’s purpose was to find out if the Fannin County School System was meeting 3 requirements:

  • 1. Provide a goal that ensures tax funds are spent efficiently and economically, so that the school district receives the maximum benefit from dollars collected.
  • 2. Provide reports not less than once annually to ensure that the terms laid out in item 1 are being met.
  • 3. Provide for periodic public recommendations not less than once annually for improvements in meeting the goal specified in item 1.

Mauldin and Jenkins tested approximately 60 claims. These claims accounted for $1,027,970 or 15.3 percent of total disbursements for the year.
Holloway announced the findings of the audit saying that Mauldin and Jenkins “concluded that the Fannin County School District’s SPLOST is operating in compliance with all laws and regulations, the referendum approved by the county citizens and industry best practices.”

Special recognition was given to Director of Maintenance and Facilities Danny Shinpaugh by the auditing firm for his role in providing the BOE with continuous and thorough updates regarding construction projects relating to school properties.

Having looked into the bidding and decision making processes involved, focusing on the recently constructed Agricultural Center, along with negotiations that had been made, Mauldin and Jenkins also recognized Shinpaugh’s outstanding management in overseeing construction projects.

“It was a very fair process,” Holloway said of the manner in which the audit was performed and gave special credit to her team in the finance department for the hard work and many hours they put in all year: “There’s a lot of times they’re the first ones here and the last ones to leave and they’re willing to dig in.”

“With the Superintendent and the Board’s support I have been able to hand pick these awesome ladies. I appreciate you for that,” Holloway said expressing thanks for all her fellow coworkers.

Dr. Gwatney shared his thoughts on the findings of the SPLOST audit: “It’s comforting to have the reassurance of an external audit to show that these funds that are being collected are being utilized legally, properly, ethically and in the manner that matches the referendum.”

The Fannin County School System is now hoping that the residents of Fannin County will continue the district’s success and provide the school system with a continuation of collections for SPLOST.

With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.

It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the Fannin County School System that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum and Early Voting is taking place now. If passed the new referendum would allow FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million.

 

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 Schools will seek SPLOST continuation

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) has voted in favor of the continuation of collections for SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and now they hope the public will do the same.

SPLOST has helped in the funding of several projects within the Fannin County School System (FCSS). Some of the more recent notable projects include the construction of the Agricultural Building located off of Windy Ridge Road and the technology upgrades seen throughout the FCSS campuses.

Blue Ridge, Board of Education, Fannin County School System, Fannin County Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County, Georgia, Terry Bramlett, Finance Director, Susan Holloway, Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum, Darren Danner, Lynn Doss,  Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, Mary Ann Conner, Chuck Cook, Fannin County Elections and Registration, SPLOST IV, SPLOST V, Special Election, March 19, 2019

The new Agricultural Center located off of Windy Ridge Road is a direct result of Fannin County SPLOST collections.

“That’s where I feel like we are being good stewards of our taxpayer dollars,” FCSS Finance Director Susan Holloway addressed the BOE concerning SPLOST funds, “Because what we have is aged facilities, but we are doing, I think, an excellent job of maintaining and keeping them in top notch shape.”

The latest SPLOST update for Nov. 2018 in the amount of $500,946.90 shows that collections in the account are following an increasing trend.
With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.

Holloway explains, “We’re in our SPLOST IV referendum and that referendum is for $27,500,000.00. The collections for this referendum began in April of 2016. It ends in March of 2021. A SPLOSTt referendum runs for 5 years. If we stay on this path that we are on we are probably going to cap out at that $27.5 million before we get to that date.”

It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the FCSS that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.

The school system has worked closely with local council Lynn Doss, Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, and Mary Ann Conner and Chuck Cook with the Fannin County Elections and Registration Office to have an SPLOST referendum added as a Special Election in 2019.

Based on projections from Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, the FCSS is asking for the increased amount of $34.5 million. Holloway explains the number, “We should not cap out on this one. Hopefully in five years we’ll get the life out of this SPLOST.”

Along with the additional requested SPLOST collections, the BOE discussed preapproval of bonding $14 million for emergency purposes.
“The Board of Education utilizes bonding not to complete projects, but as emergency funding,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney clarified the discussion for the preapproval.

School Board Member Terry Bramlett expanded on the subject, “We’re simply reserving the right to do that (obtain a bond) should we have an emergency, because there would be interest related to a bonded portion of the money. All efforts would be exhausted not to do that.”

What will the Fannin County School System use SPLOST collections for? According the new referendum the purpose of these funds will be allocated in the following areas:

  • A) adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, equipping, and demolishing existing school buildings, school system facilities, parking lots and driveways, physical education/athletic facilities and fields;
  • B) updating and purchasing HVAC systems, system technology, electrical systems, nutritional equipment and electronic communications systems;
  • C) acquiring new computer hardware, technology equipment, safety and security equipment, and software;
  • D) acquiring miscellaneous new equipment, fixtures, and furnishings for the school district;
  • E) acquiring school buses and other vehicles, transportation and maintenance equipment and facilities;
  • F) acquiring, constructing and equipping new buildings and facilities useful and desirable, including but not limited to, a new          STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, a new Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility; a new professional development facility;
  • G) acquiring and/or improving land for school system facilities;
  • H) purchasing traditional and electronic textbooks, purchase new and upgrades to print and electronic media collections

The new projected STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, along with the new projected Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility at Fannin County High School were highlighted as projects of the SPLOST V referendum.

According to Bramlett SPLOST “allows people who visit our fair country to participate rather than having to rely solely on the property owners.”

Attorney Lynn Doss backed up this statement saying that statistically between 54 -70 percent of SPLOST collections in Fannin County comes from visitors.

Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum Darren Danner spoke of the SPLOST V referendum: “This is not an additional tax. This is a continuation of SPLOST IV. If we meet that threshold before March of 2021,” adding, “If Fannin County voters approve this it will kick in immediately.”

Gwatney summed up the feelings of the BOE with a simple statement: “Thankful for SPLOST.”

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum, allowing FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million. This referendum is expected to be the only item on the ballot.

 

 

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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Preparations for the 2018 General Election are taking place in Fannin County

Election, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Board of Elections and Registration (BOEAR) continues to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2018.

Fannin County, Gerogia, Blue Ridge, General Election, Election 2018, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, Soil and Water Conservation, Post 2 Commissioner, Georgia Election Officials Association, GEOA, Voter Registrars Association of Georgia, VRAG, Goergia House of Respresentatives, District 7, Margaret Williamson, David Ralston, Glenn Patterson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Damon Davenport, Mary Ann Conner, Sonia Smith, Richard Stanley

Margaret Williamson will face David Ralston in the Republican Primary for Georgia House of Representatives, District 7 seat.

With candidates, such as Glenn Patterson for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner and Margaret Williamson for Georgia House of Representatives District 7, already announcing their intentions to run in the scheduled May primaries, the BOEAR has much to prepare for this year.

The BOEAR will see new faces on their board as well this year. The board, composed of two appointed Democrats, two appointed Republicans and a fifth member decided by the appointed members, will all be up for reappointment this year having served their two-year terms.

One member that will not be seeking reappointment is John Baird. Baird having served on the board for two years will be leaving Fannin County in the near future. This will leave the Democratic seat held by Baird open for a new Democratic appointment to fill.

Members of the Board of Elections and Registration are nominated by their parties respectively, and then voted on within that party to fill the board.

Board members are preparing to attend the Georgia Election Officials Association (GEOA) and the Voter Registrars Association of Georgia (VRAG) joint conference held March 25 to 28 in Athens, Georgia.

Attendance to this conference in mandatory for two members of the board and will keep Fannin County in compliance with Georgia state law regarding elections.

BOEAR Vice Chairman Mary Ann Conner explained the need for the mandatory attendance saying, “We (BOEAR) have to have 12 hours of training each year on voter registration and the elections, and it certifies us to hold that election.”

“We usually go to two a year,” BOEAR Chairman Sonia Smith clarified. “This one will be combined.”

Conner added, “Because of all of the elections, this is the only way they (GEOA/VRAG) can do it during an election year.”

Fannin County, Gerogia, Blue Ridge, General Election, Election 2018, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, Soil and Water Conservation, Post 2 Commissioner, Georgia Election Officials Association, GEOA, Voter Registrars Association of Georgia, VRAG, Goergia House of Respresentatives, District 7, Margaret Williamson, David Ralston, Glenn Patterson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Damon Davenport, Mary Ann Conner, Sonia Smith, Richard Stanley

Glenn Patterson seeks a position as Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner.

The BOEAR also announced the proposed qualifying fees for county positions. These fees were later passed by the Board of Commissioners.

A fee of $349 is required to run for Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, and $144 is required to run for a seat with the Board of Education. The qualifying period for these positions begins March 5 at 9 a.m. and will close on March 9 at noon.

A General Primary Election for both Republicans and Democrats will take place on May 22, 2018. Voter registration deadline for the Primary Election is April 23.

Winners of the primaries will face off in the General Election to be held on Nov. 6, 2018.

Another position that will be seen on the ballot in November is that of the Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District is represented by two district supervisors. One of the supervisors is appointed to a two-year term while the other is elected to the position and serves a four-year term.

Currently, Fannin County is only represented by one district supervisor, Damon Davenport. Richard Stanley, the elected official, passed away in late September of 2017. The seat of the late Richard Stanley will be open to candidates in the 2018 election.

To fill the vacant seat within the Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District, one must petition the state of Georgia and meet certain requirements to be put on the ballot.

Conner pointed out a change in requirements for this position, “They have upped the petition from 20 names to 25 names.” Names on this petition must be from registered voters and can be filed with the Fannin County Board of Registration and Elections.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County Board of Registration and Elections sets date to inspect voting precincts

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – The Fannin County Board of Registration and Elections are set to inspect the county’s voting precincts.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, board members set a tentative date to begin inspection of the voting precincts throughout the county. These inspections are conducted regularly to ensure the buildings are ready for voters during an election season.

New TSX touch-screen voting machines received by Fannin County.

The Mobile precinct is in need of having hand rails replaced and the handicapped parking spaces repainted. There are currently nine precincts in the county that are due for inspection.

Fannin County received 143 new applications to become a registered voter in the month of October. Many of these applications were due to the recent city of Blue Ridge election.

Vice Chairperson Mary Ann Conner explained that there are still new registrations to add: “The new applications, the cut off for that was October 10 because of the Blue Ridge City election. We’re still adding the ones in the county.”

After receiving new touch-screen voting machines, Fannin County listed the older machines for other counties within the state to claim for use. The older machines were state-issued to the county and had been in use since 2002.

These machines were offered to Georgia counties at no cost. Board Member Wanda Collins explained, “These were state-issued machines. We didn’t pay for them.”

DeKalb County has contacted the Board of Registration and Elections expressing that they would have a need for the machines in their county. Kennesaw State University (KSU) must test and certify the machines before they can be moved to DeKalb County.

There is currently a wait to have this process completed. Conner said, “The state has got them on hold. They’re not letting (KSU) do any testing. So right now, we’re keeping them here with us until then.”

KSU is expected to resume testing early in 2018. Conner went on to say, “Once they get them tested, then we can notify DeKalb county, and they will come pick them up.” There is a total of 71 TS Machines from Fannin County to be tested and certified.

 

 

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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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County Receives New Electronic Voting Machines

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Registration and Elections recently received a shipment of 72 TSX machines.

These new electronic voting machines are an upgrade from the county’s previous machines that have been in use since 2002. The old TS machines will be evaluated by Kennesaw State University (KSU) for defects and need for repairs.

After KSU’s examination, the county can then offer the old machines to be used in other Georgia counties. Fannin County will not be able to sell these machines.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Registration and Elections, Mary Ann Conner, Wanda Collins

Fannin County received 72 new TSX machines.

Wanda Collins explains, “These were State issued machines. We didn’t pay for them.”

Because of this state issuing at no charge, Fannin County must offer the old TS machines to counties within the state for no monetary exchange.

The county also had an immense task in the months of August and September with the removal of 1,861 registered voters from the County’s database. The vast majority of these removals came from a state notification of inactive voters.

The state notifies the Registration and Election Department when a registered voter has not participated in two General Elections. This inaction requires the voter to be deleted from the county and state databases, and they must register again to vote in further elections.

Fannin County keeps paper files of these voter deletions. With the constant addition of files, through deletion or registration, the Department of Registration and Elections was in need of more storage space.

The files require a specialized filing cabinet and the department had been looking to purchase these additional cabinets. The cost of new a single new cabinet could range from $1,100 to $1,600.

Vice Chairperson Mary Ann Conner, however, diligently searched and was able to locate one of these specialized filing cabinets for free.
The cabinet, which was donated from Paulding County, has been delivered to Fannin County and is already in use.

“We were able to save the county at least $1,100.00,” Conner stated.

 

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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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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