Dawson County department heads present their 2019 budget requests to Board of Commissioners

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Human Resources Director Danielle Yarbrough presents her 2019 budget request to commissioners.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – After months of preparation, Dawson County’s department heads presented their 2019 budget requests to the Board of Commissioners Monday. Commissioners scrutinized every line item in search of efficiencies that would save tax payer dollars.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Gosselin, Tax Commissioner Nicole Stewart, Development Authority Director Brian Trapnell, Human Resource Director Danielle Yarbrough and Probate Court Judge Jennifer Burt were the first to present their requests.

Superior Court is asking for an increase of $16,297 in its 2019 budget to $516,971. Most of the increase is due to the addition of a fifth superior court judge to serve Dawson and Hall counties. Judge Clint Bearden was appointed to that post by Governor Nathan Deal in December.

Stewart was next in line and she brought good news, informing commissioners that her department –which is ranked number one in the state in percentage of taxes collected – is seeking a budget reduction of approximately $22,618 to $429,054 in 2019.

Chairman Billy Thurmond pointed out that the reduction was due to “some people (within the department) changing positions and some people making less money.”

As they reviewed the presentation, Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix noted that Stewart’s expenditures for legal fees also declined when the county hired County Attorney Lynn Frey.

“I noticed your attorney fees were $4,440 in 2017 and this year only $1,500,” she said. “I would recommend to the Board that we take a look at all departments and leave those line items out for attorney fees because we do have a county attorney now.”

The Development Authority operated on a $150,000 budget in 2017. Commissioners voted not to fund the group in 2018 but has chosen to reinstate it in 2019. Trapnell requested an operating budget of $200,000, part of which would be to engage an expert consultant to identify options for Development Authority funding.

Judge Burt is asking for a slight increase in her budget from $309,028 to $316,068. The increase is a result of the 2 percent countywide pay increase approved by the Board of Commissioner and the rest is in retirement contributions.

In 2016, the Director of Administration position was dissolved and Human Resources assumed responsibility for risk management. HR Director Danielle Yarbrough presented a budget request for 2019 which reflected a $25,000 decrease in risk management costs.

For non-risk management activities, she requested a budget increase of about $23,965 to $212,973. The increase would be attributed to group insurance ($6,000), retirement contribution ($5,000), general office supplies ($4,000), commission-approved salary increase ($2,000) and attorney review of the new county employee handbook ($4,000). In this case, outside counsel would be required to perform the review because it would be a conflict of interest for the county attorney to do so.

Yarbrough is also asking the Board to approve a position for a human resource specialist at a salary of $34,153 plus benefits totaling approximately $19,589 and retirement contribution. Currently, there are only two employees in Human Resources.

“The Society for Human Resource Management recommends one human resources person for every 100 employees,” Yarbrough explained. “So we are sorely understaffed.” The county has 284 full-time and 158 part-time employees plus 41 vacancies and 21 frozen positions.

“A lot of department heads are going to be coming to you to ask for positions to be unfrozen and for new positions which is going to increase the burden on my department,” she said. “Even if we had two new employees, we would still be understaffed. But we’re only asking for one.”

Budget reviews will be held at 9 a.m. each day through Thursday and the public is encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, commissioners will review the public defender, elections office, extension service, finance department and public works/transfer station.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thurmond earns certified commissioner status

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – In an effort to better serve the citizens, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond has earned the certificate of recognition as a Certified County Commissioner from the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government, in partnership with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

To earn the certification, Thurmond successfully completed nine training sessions covering 66 hours of required courses. Courses included County Government 101, County Government Finance, County Government Law, Economic Development, Ethics, Human Resources, Leadership Institute, Property Appraisal and Taxation, and Public Health and Safety.

“I will use the knowledge that I have gained from the classes I took to obtain this certification to better serve the citizens of Dawson County,” said Thurmond.

The Institute of Government, in partnership with ACCG, offers courses through the Lifelong Learning Academy for county commissioners to develop and enhance their leadership and governing skills. Academy courses are offered at least once every other year during training programs. These programs are held in conjunction with regularly scheduled ACCG meetings or as stand-alone sessions. In order to receive credit, a person must attend the entire course.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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Sheriff, county fail to reach budget agreement

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and county officials failed to reach an agreement on the sheriff’s 2018 budget during a 90-minute meeting Tuesday which places the decision back in the hands of Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop Jr.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners, claiming the budget they approved was not sufficient for him to perform his sworn duties.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said he, Commissioner Chris Gaines and County Attorney Lynn Frey met with Johnson and his attorney Joey Homans Tuesday.

“We had a good discussion but did not reach an agreement,” Thurmond said. “It was cordial on both sides. We explained we would continue to look at the revenue and would need time to see what the final numbers are from the property tax evaluation.”

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Thurmond said he would update the rest of the Board of Commissioners on the meeting when they go into executive session during Thursday’s meeting.

Unless the board decides something different, Thurmond said he expects the case to go back to Bishop for a verdict.

Homans and Frey will prepare briefs for the judge to review. Regardless of which side prevails, there is likely to be an appeal.

Fetch Your News reached out to the sheriff for his comments, but he did not return our call.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

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County employees enjoy Thanksgiving luncheon

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Publix Customer Service Manager Nicholas Kirkland, Dawson County Manager David Headley and Publix Assistant Meat Manager Jim Ferrante with the 10 turkeys and two hams the supermarket provided Dawson County at a discount.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County employees do their best to serve the citizens of Dawson County, so County Manager David Headley and the county commissioners decided it was high time they returned the favor.

Headley, Chairman Billy Thurmond and commissioners Jimmy Hamby, Julie Nix, Chris Gaines and Sharon Fausett purchased the turkey and ham and served a Thanksgiving potluck luncheon at Veterans Memorial Park.

Employees could either sit down for their meal or take it to go. An estimated 125 county workers participated.

“Our employees are our most important asset, and this was just one way we are able to show our appreciation,” Headley said. “We also thank our employees for providing the many delicious side dishes, desserts and other items that helped make our gathering a success. We wish our employees and their families, and all of our Dawson County citizens, a happy Thanksgiving.”

Thurmond added, “I want to thank the staff for their hard work and dedication to the citizens of Dawson County. I also want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.”

Publix in Dawsonville partnered with the county to provide 10 turkeys and two hams at a discounted price.

“We would like to thank our friends at Publix for the delicious meat; those who prepared it, Ricky Rexroat of Emergency Services and David McKee of Public Works; and Commissioners Billy Thurmond, Sharon Fausett, Chris Gaines and Julie Hughes Nix for taking time to help serve the meal,” Headley said.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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SPLOST, LOST Collection Exceed Projection

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County Manager David Headley

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – County Manager David Headley delivered some welcome news during the Dawson County Board of Commissioners work session Thursday. The county has made great gains in collection of the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). Both have performed above expectations.

Bearden said revenue from both is up 17.6 percent over the same month in 2016 and 12.58 percent for the year. Last month’s collection came in 26.2 percent over projection.

Total SPLOST VI collection for the year is $16,281,296. September SPLOST collection was $682,219 while LOST collection was $600,343.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond has stressed the importance of reaching SPLOST and LOST collections during his first year in office. “If we keep on the current pace, we might reach the projected amount of sales tax we put into the 2017 budget,” he said. “That will be the first time that has happened in the last several years. In fact, I’m glad to hear we might actually beat the projections.”

Public Works Director David McKee requested Board approval to apply for the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG) from the state Motor Fuel Tax collections. The grant requires a match of 30 percent. This year the amount allotted to Dawson County is $413,739.21. Dawson County’s 30 percent match would total $124,121.76. Total budget for 2018 LMIG projects is $537,860.97.

Sr. Services Director Dawn Pruett

The funds will be utilized to repair the following roads: A.T. Moore, Mt. Vernon, Pelican Court, Biscayne Dr., Keys Court, Sandcastle Ct., Bay Drive, Harbour Drive and Seabreeze Way.

Senior Services Director Dawn Pruett will present a continuous grant application for the Board’s approval. The grant is with the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) to provide public transportation for Dawson County citizens.

If approved, the grant will continue to pay a 50 percent match with federal funding for administrative and operating budget.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Sheriff Prepared to Sue County Over 2018 Budget

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Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — First-year Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson wants a bigger slice of the 2018 county budget than commissioners approved last month and he is prepared to take them to court to get it.

Johnson’s attorney Joseph Homans sent County Attorney Lynn Frey an email requesting additional legal fees for the sheriff regarding the petition for mandamus he intends to file in Superior Court should the county not approve the budget submitted by the sheriff in July.

According to the petition, that request was for $8,961,406. In September county commissioners approved a budget of $8,273,080.

The petition states, “The budget approved by Respondents constitutes abuse of discretion as Respondents failed to fulfill their duty to adopt a budget making reasonable and adequate provisions for personnel and equipment necessary to enable the Sheriff to perform his duties.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond

As of Tuesday (Oct. 24), Homans said he had nothad a response from the county.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “We are looking at it with our attorney right now. We will discuss it in executive session on Thursday and I will be able to say more about it then.”

The sheriff’s budgeting process is unlike any in state government. Commissioners control the budget, but sheriffs are constitutional officers, elected by the citizens. Their budgets cannot be cut unless the sheriff agrees.

Commissioners contend the budget they approved reflects an increase over the 2017 budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Commissioners Approve FY 2018 Budget

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved a FY 2018 budget of $25,516,312, an increase of 4.98 percent over last year’s budget during Thursday’s meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond made it clear from the start of the budget process that one of his goals would be to set a realistic budget that did not overestimate the amount of revenue the county would receive.

Commissioners faced several hurdles in balancing the budget. A wage and salary study last summer indicated that county employees were underpaid. To rectify that situation, commissioners approved a salary increase that totaled about $1.08 million. The amount the county pays for employee healthcare also rose by approximately 18 percent.

To help balance the budget and to maintain the 8.138 millage rate, commissioners reduced the fund balance (reserves) by $1.4 million.

The new budget includes $7.3 million for the Sheriff’s Office, an increase of about $500,000 over last year, but stops short of the $8.1 million Sheriff Jeff Johnson requested. During several meetings with commissioners, Johnson said $7.3 million is not enough to allow him to fulfill the duties of his office.

The dispute does not necessarily end with the adoption of the budget. Sheriffs are constitutional officers, elected by the citizens. If push comes to shove, the sheriff can take his appeal through the court system.

Asked today if he and his attorney, Joey Homans, plan to exercise that option, Johnson said, “We have some evaluation to do.  We will probably decide by the end of next week.”

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Visits Dawsonville

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From left Sen. Steve Gooch, Bill Elliott and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Former NASCAR great Bill Elliott — better known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville —  and a large contingent of community leaders welcomed Lt. Governor Casey Cagle to Dawsonville Wednesday morning.  Cagle is in the midst of a 17-stop bus tour of north Georgia to promote his campaign for governor.

You have to wonder if Elliott gave the Hall County Republican some inside tips on how to make a quick pit stop because after spending a little quality time with Dawson County community leaders and a quick stump speech, Cagle sped off to Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, and Whitfield counties.

Before getting back on the road, Cagle visited with Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, Commissioners Jimmy Hamby and Chris Gaines, Mayor James Grogan, County Manager David Headley, Sherriff Jeff Johnson and Chamber President Christie Hayes.

Former Commission Chairman Mike Berg introduced the lieutenant governor who didn’t need much of an introduction since he once represented the county as State Senator and has been lieutenant governor for eight years.

Cagle’s said he would focus on transportation, jobs, education and providing broadband to rural areas of Georgia

Cagle said, Georgia needs a transportation plan to accommodate a population growth of about 4.5 million people in the next 15 years.

“We have to get busy with a two-year strategic plan built around transportation that is able to go under, go over, go around, whatever is required to prepared ourselves for the kind of growth that is coming.”

On jobs, Cagle said he wants to build a world-class workforce second to none. “As I woke up this morning there were 150,000 jobs available today and out of that 150,000, 25 percent need four-year degrees but 75 percent need industry certification or a two-year degree. So, I want to make sure we are aligning education with what industry needs.”

On education he said, “The college and career education network I created reshapes the way we deliver education, giving our kids more options.”

Cagle also repeated his pledge of 500,000 new jobs during his first term in office and $100 million in tax cuts in the first 100 days.

Cagle said he understands how important broadband access is to education and to attracting business to Georgia and he fired a salvo over the heads of broadband internet providers.

“We’re going to have best in class as it pertains to rural broadband,” he said. “I’m going to set a standard that I expect every single provider in this state to reach. I know we have a problem with last mile so we’ll be looking at technology that will allow us to provide that. But I’m not going to accept any excuses. The providers are going to get in gear to make this a reality or we’re going to find someone that can. It’s just that simple.

Asked if the state school board members should be elected or appointed, he said, “Many people believe that the superintendent should be appointed almost like a cabinet position. I don’t believe that having an elected state school board is going to fundamentally improve education.”

On what has been a highly controversial religious freedom bill, Cagle said, “I and the other candidates have signed a pledge that if there is a federal mirror Xerox copy of what is already federal law that comes to my desk, I will sign it. There are a lot of social issues out there that are very divisive. As a born-again Christian, with a strong belief in religious freedom, I don’t want anyone trampling on that. As governor, I am also not for discrimination. So we’re not using this in a way that will cloak ourselves in a way that allows us to discriminate. So, these are balancing acts. We’ll do it in a way that doesn’t cost us business.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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