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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
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.