Fannin County Courthouse paid off

Featured News, Featured Stories
courthouse

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County government paid off the remaining debt on the courthouse slightly ahead of schedule.

“I think myself and Commissioner Scearce are just happy to be hard on the tail end of that, the payoff. Due to the hard work of every administration before us, we were able to pay that off. I just want to thank them for always working hard to make sure that we were able to stay afloat to be able to do this. My hat’s off to the former commissioners and to commissioner Patterson, he’s our senior member, so we’re thankful to all those,” Hensley commented.

The bond on the courthouse was paid in full on March 25, 2021. The budgeted amount for the year was 1,120,750 and the actual final amount was 1,122,375. The extra amount accounts for interest on the loan. The debt for the new courthouse was assumed in the early 2000s.

property jail

Fannin County Courthouse

The financial report for the first six months of 2021 indicated that several departments were operating under budget. By the end of June, the county is 50 percent into the budget for the year and most departments fell into the 30 and 40th percentile range. Fire services were 63.32 percent into its yearly budget.

Net revenues for the county continue to increase with healthy SPLOST, LOST, and lodging tax numbers. The lodging tax was recently increased to 6 percent with 3 percent going to the Chamber of Commerce and 3 percent to the Board of Commissioners.

SPLOST and LOST are two major revenue generators for Fannin separate from property taxes.

When comparing the lodging tax for the first six months of 2020 to 2021, the cumulative variance is $1,154,118.96. This includes April 2020 during the lockdown when the county only netted $19,745 in lodging tax compared to the $100,000-plus it was collecting in early 2020.

Still, after people began flocking to the North Georgia Mountains in 2020, the amount of revenue doubled during the second half of the year. Once the lodging tax increase went into effect in January, the tax amount also doubled from the same time last year. January in 2020 was $117,980.50 and in 2021 was $332,355.76.

According to the lodging tax data, the summer and fall months see a larger influx of visitors in the county. It will be interesting to see if the trend of doubling continues during the back half of the year.

Administration Department operating budgets six months into the year.

The previous board opted to keep a flat budget for 2021, but the current board amended it at the start of the year to include a cost-of-living raise. The chairman commented on rising inflation across the county, but the government remains within budget.

“The county can run between six and seven months,” Hensley explained in the event of a government shutdown. He also thanked the departments for effectively managing their budget.

Post One Johnny Scearce and Post Glenn Patterson echoed Hensley’s sentiments about the hard work of the department heads and their employees to be cost-efficient.

“Net revenues are up over last year,” Hensley added, “We’re a little bit over on our expenditures, and that’s a result of several different things.”

However, he expected the expenditures will even out by the end of the year.

Hensley did apologize for the financial reports not being quarterly as they had been in the past. He promised they would be from now on. He assumed the chairman role in January and the chief financial officer left the job without informing him in December 2020.

Public Safety operating budgets six months into the year.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
sexual assault awareness

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County Commissioners signed a proclamation declaring April 2021 Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network (NGMCN) employees accepted the proclamation and Executive Director Kim O’Neal thanked the commissioners for their support.

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent. In today’s world, it isn’t limited to in-person harassment, abuse, or assault. Online spaces can present victims with harmful content or behaviors too.

“As technology has evolved to become a part of our everyday lives, our awareness of how it can be used to bully, threaten and commit abuse has grown as well,” said Yolanda Edrington, Executive Director of NSVRC. “The ‘We Can Build’ campaign promotes how you can practice consent and support survivors online. New platforms will continue to emerge as technology expands, and by leading with these foundational principles, we can build safe online spaces now and into the future.”

NSVRC encourages individuals and communities to commemorate SAAM and show support for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by wearing teal — the color of sexual violence prevention — on April 6th and posting a selfie to Twitter or Instagram using #SAAM2021. Wearing teal signals that you support survivors and are a safe person to talk to if they need to reach out.

In Georgia, one in three women and nearly one in four men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact. One in five women have endured rape or attempted rape; one in 38 men have experienced the same brutality.

According to NGMCN, in 2015 the Appalachian Judicial Circuit responded to 51 reports of sexual assault.

NGMCN’s mission is “to provide safe shelter and support services for all survivors of domestic violence, their children, and survivors of sexual assault; promote community awareness and education to help prevent and break the cycle of violence; provide an environment of encouragement, compassion, and support for all survivors.”

2021 marks the twentieth year of Sexual Assault Awareness month, and NSVRC hopes by continuing to raise awareness, one day we can stop sexual assault before it happens.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, please go to a safe place either with a parent, family member, or friend. You can also call the local rape crisis center or NGMCN at 1-800-334-2836.

Commissioners share thoughts on tax increase

News
proposed tax increase

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – During the first public hearing concerning the proposed tax increase, Fannin County Commissioners explained the importance of providing quality of life for county employees.

The proposed tax increase would be 2.30 percent by maintaining the current millage rate of 3.862 mills and not accepting the rollback recommended by the state. In other words, a home with a fair market value of $200,000 would see a property tax increase of $6.96. For non-homestead property with a fair market value of $150,000, owners would experience an increase of $5.22.

Chairman Jamie Hensley explained, “In a time where it’s hard as the dickens to find employees, my focus then becomes to retention of employees that we have with the possibility of enticing more employees to come to work for us.”

By maintaining the current millage rate, Hensley believes 42 employees could earn a “livable wage.” The county has 194 full-time employees.

“As bad as it is to say, you can actually go to a fast-food restaurant and make more money than you can some of these employees make here now,” Hensley added.

Post Two Glenn Patterson commented on the growth of Fannin County and the necessity of keeping up infrastructure as well as services.

“It’s good to say we’re the lowest millage rate in the state. At some point in time, looking at the people, it’s making sure you can take care of the people,” Patterson said in agreement with Hensley.

Post One Johnny Scearce continued that he’s always been for employees because he has experience leading local government departments.

“They’re going to be more productive if you’re taking care of them,” Scearce added. “Now, we’re bringing up the pay for 42 people, that’s awesome. That’s a good thing we should be doing because not only do we take care of our citizens, we take care of our employees.”

He expanded that he’s not a “big tax person” but sometimes taxes are necessary to maintain a high quality of life in the community.

The only public comments were from individuals agreeing with the commissions on the need to take care of their employees.

The next public hearing concerning the proposed tax increase will be held on August 17th at 6:00 p.m. & August 24th at 5:30 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room at the Fannin County Courthouse.

Commissioners share thoughts on tax increase

News
proposed tax increase

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – During the first public hearing concerning the proposed tax increase, Fannin County Commissioners explained the importance of providing quality of life for county employees.

The proposed tax increase would be 2.30 percent by maintaining the current millage rate of 3.862 mills and not accepting the rollback recommended by the state. In other words, a home with a fair market value of $200,000 would see a property tax increase of $6.96. For non-homestead property with a fair market value of $150,000, owners would experience an increase of $5.22.

Chairman Jamie Hensley explained, “In a time where it’s hard as the dickens to find employees, my focus then becomes to retention of employees that we have with the possibility of enticing more employees to come to work for us.”

By maintaining the current millage rate, Hensley believes 42 employees could earn a “livable wage.” The county has 194 full-time employees.

“As bad as it is to say, you can actually go to a fast-food restaurant and make more money than you can some of these employees make here now,” Hensley added.

Post Two Glenn Patterson commented on the growth of Fannin County and the necessity of keeping up infrastructure as well as services.

“It’s good to say we’re the lowest millage rate in the state. At some point in time, looking at the people, it’s making sure you can take care of the people,” Patterson said in agreement with Hensley.

Post One Johnny Scearce continued that he’s always been for employees because he has experience leading local government departments.

“They’re going to be more productive if you’re taking care of them,” Scearce added. “Now, we’re bringing up the pay for 42 people, that’s awesome. That’s a good thing we should be doing because not only do we take care of our citizens, we take care of our employees.”

He expanded that he’s not a “big tax person” but sometimes taxes are necessary to maintain a high quality of life in the community.

The only public comments were from individuals agreeing with the commissions on the need to take care of their employees.

The next public hearing concerning the proposed tax increase will be held on August 17th at 6:00 p.m. & August 24th at 5:30 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room at the Fannin County Courthouse.

Fannin Commissioners approve 2021 budget

Board of Commissioners, Featured News, Featured Stories, News
2021 budget

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The three Fannin County Commissioners approved the 2021 operating budget after some discussion about the sheriff’s account.

The total 2021 budget was $29,356,858 plus $87,675 for the sheriff’s office. The addition kept the sheriff’s account the same as it was in 2020.

“A good flat budget. I’m pleased that everybody’s pitched in to try and get us through a very difficult time and keep the county financially whole,” Chairman Stan Helton said.

Sheriff Dane Kirby came before the commission board to discuss adding $87,675 back into his budget for car purchases. The amount would leave the sheriff’s office with the same operating budget as in 2020.

Previously, the Sheriff’s Office budget had a line item for lease purchases, and they asked for it to be moved to salaries, according to Chairman Stan Helton. They made their final lease payment in 2020, so Kirby wanted to use the money to buy vehicles in 2021.

“Our last meeting, we had, we were not going to put any salary increases for anyone other than what was mandated by the state,” Helton explained. He also addressed that the sheriff’s office received 25 percent of public safety SPLOST. The sheriff’s office has $34,000 budgeted for capital outlay in 2021, and $100,000 will come from SPLOST.

Sheriff Kirby explained that the amount would purchase three cars, and the office needs five. Without adding the $87,675 back, Kirby would have used the $50,000 from the small equipment and tools line item.

“We will know at the end of January where the county stands because everything will be finally tabulated for 2020,” Helton commented. “What my strategy was: is to leave [it]. You have $134,000 that is immediately available, and if you needed to get two more cars, it would be just a matter of the new board to amend your budget from that.”

Sheriff Dane Kirby wanted his budget restored to the 2020 amount.

“I asked everyone to stay where they were at. I didn’t agree to cut anybody,” Post One Earl Johnson said.

Kirby explained that he tell the car dealer if they were committed to purchasing the car.

“He’s got a handful of vehicles on the lot, and we’ve got five of them spoken for, but if we don’t take them right after the first of the year, he’s going to have to sell them to somebody else,” Kirby commented.

The cars would be fully equipped and cost approximately $42,000 each.
Kirby also spoke about the need to increase salaries in the sheriff’s office, stating it’s difficult to recruit people into the county when neighboring areas are paying more.

The recreation department’s budget increased in 2021 because of the pre-school program – approximately $58,000.

Fannin thanks Post One Johnson for his service

Community, Feature News, Featured Stories, News
Sheriff Dane Kirby and Post One Earl Johnson

BLUE RIDGE, Ga: After his last official meeting as Post One Commissioner, Earl Johnson received a heartfelt thanks for his years of service to Fannin County.

Post Two Glenn Patterson presented Johnson with his plaque and said a few words about his time serving with Johnson.

“It’s not an easy job, to say the least. It has it’s stressful moments, and tough decisions have to be made,” Patterson expressed. “We appreciate Mr. Johnson and his service to the community. I’ve learned a lot from Earl in a short period of time.”

Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson

Post Two Glenn Patterson spoke about his appreciation for Johnson. Chairman Stan Helton left before the ceremony.

Patterson recognized Johnson’s efforts to strengthen the post commissioner positions within the Fannin County government. Johnson always made known his stance on the issues and put the citizens of Fannin County first. The three commissioners might not have always agreed, but perhaps differences are necessary to keep a government honest.

Some of Johnson’s accomplishments include Fire Station One and dedication to ensuring Fannin County operated within its means.

“I especially appreciate Earl’s sense of humor even during tense moments,” Patterson stated.

Of his time in office, Johnson said, “I don’t know what to say. Eight years has been a whirlwind in many different ways. It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m going to miss seeing all the people every two weeks. I’m going to miss being involved…Without holding a public position like this, I would have never understood how detailed our county is and how big our county is.”

One of the biggest lessons learned as Post One Commissioner was how to hold his temper. It’s also taught him how to work through disagreements and finish projects productively.

“It’s been a huge learning experience. I appreciate all the people of Fannin County for entrusting me for eight years,” Johnson remarked.

Post One Earl Johnson

Johnson looking at his plaque.

He also thanked his family for their sacrifices and opening themselves up to scrutiny just because he held a public office.

“One day, you might see me back involved. I have nothing negative to say,” Johnson said. “I appreciate anyone who does fill these seats. It’s getting to the point now where it’s so tough to be in public service.”

For now, Johnson looks forward to enjoying a nice meal and returning to being an everyday citizen again.

Feature image includes Fannin Sheriff Dane Kirby and Post One Earl Johson.

 

 

Back to Top