The Oct. 27 meetings began with a workshop about the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, what projects are proposed, and what money is available. Commissioner Larry Childs asked for the workshop to discuss the possibility of borrowing $4 million against future collections.
County Administrator Mike Underwood said the county anticipates collecting $14 million over the next six years, and the City of Gray will receive 19 percent of what is collected. A total of the projects proposed for the 2009 SPLOST funds is $11,312,000.
The fees involved in borrowing the money, however, are significant with a discussed bond issue having the price tag of $750,000 even though the interest rate is as low as 3.5 percent. Childs asked if other funding sources are available, and Underwood said no sources are cheaper, and Engineer Tim Ingram said going through other agencies such as USDA and GEFA would limit flexibility in how the money is used.
Underwood pointed out that expenses in borrowing the money would reduce the amount of funds available for projects.
“If you don’t borrow the money, you can be moving projects along, but not with a big bang,” he said. The administrator said the county is receiving an average of $200,000 a month from collections and money for the new sheriff’s cars will be needed in December.
He explained that the collections for July were received in September, and August receipts were received in October. Underwood said, because of the expense of the sheriff’s cars, it will take six months for the county to have $1 million in SPLOST collections in the bank.
Underwood said the commissioners need to decide if they need to borrow $4 million and if they are willing to give up more than a half-million dollars in revenue.
Childs said the county does not need that much money now, and another option would be to borrow from the general fund and pay it back when SPLOST funds are received.
“Somehow or another, there should be a way to borrow $1 million without costing us that much,” he said.
Ingram said funding sources are available for projects such as ground water storage tanks, and Childs noted that the tanks are needed to guarantee the availability of the county’s water supply.
Underwood asked the commissioners to give him a list of what is needed for the next five to six years and the priority of each project.
The commissioners agreed to wait to make a decision about borrowing money against SPLOST funds but used the called meeting to adopt a resolution for a records management plan. The storage facility is for the use of all county departments and elected officials for the control and disposition of county records.
The storage room must be secured and temperature controlled. No food or drinks are permitted in the area at any time, and access to the records is monitored. Files are to be reviewed by department heads at the end of the calendar and fiscal years.
The guidelines were adopted to bring the county into compliance with state and federal requirements.
Human resource committee member David Gault called the meeting to order and began by talking about employees cashing out vacation pay and sick leave. He said the practice is costing the county great sums of money.
“We put a freeze on the cash outs so we could discuss it,” he said.
Sick leave accumulated over 192 hours, and annual leave may be cashed out by employees in lieu of taking the time off. Clerk of the Board Leila Brittain said the policy cost the county $177,379 last year.
Childs said, when the policy was created, the county was in better financial shape.
Underwood said cashing in leave time helps law enforcement and would create a hardship if the policy was taken away.
Gault asked if the sheriff’s department could be exempt if the policy is changed, and Childs said the policy should be uniform.
“What if we limited the amount of time you could cash in? Then we could budget for it,” Underwood suggested.
Gault said the policy needs to be reviewed and new ideas presented. He recognized Sheriff Butch Reece and Major Barbara Burnette, who were in attendance at the meeting.
Burnette said the sheriff’s department operates on a 24/7 schedule. If officers are required to take the days off, there would be no way to cover the shifts.
She said requiring employees to take vacation time off will run the department into overtime and time and a half.
The sheriff said deputies are not the only issue.
“We have dispatchers and jailers to consider,” he said. “We are there every day. We are not like any other department.”
Reece suggested Burnette get with county accountants to discuss options.