Douglas Eyeing New Fiscal Calendar
The discussion started Tuesday as the Board of Commissioners approved borrowing an $18 million tax anticipation note.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved the borrowing of $18 million from JP Morgan Chase Bank on Tuesday to help with the county’s operations until property taxes are collected in the fall.
With the county’s budget being slightly more than $77 million, the borrowed money equates to about 23 percent of the budget, said county Finance Director Jennifer Hallman.
The cost to borrow the money in interest and legal fees is roughly $131,600, she said.
The money—borrowed as a tax anticipation note—will be put into Community and Southern Bank and will draw an interest rate starting at 0.3 percent, Hallman said. The rate will climb to 0.5 percent by August, she added.
The total interest expected to come into the county from the $18 million is roughly $18,000, which will help offset costs of borrowing.
The tax anticipation note (TAN) instigated a discussion among the board, withCommissioner Kelly Robinson saying he hopes the county government does not become reliant on the notes. The county has used them the past three years to help with cash flows, he said.
“The TAN was a great tool that was given to us to deal with moments in time,” he said. “But the minute we begin to rely on this as a fiscal tool, that concerns me. You don’t want to be dependant on it.”
Robinson said he wants the county to explore more ways to be financially prudent and use tax dollars more efficiently.
“As a governing body," he said, "we’ve got to do better than the average consumer. The average consumer lives paycheck to paycheck—it is what it is. There’s nothing magic about that.
"But if we’re not careful, we’ll put ourselves in the same position: that we’re having to wait until basically payday comes at the end of the year.”
Commission Chairman Tom Worthan discussed how the county’s budget has fallen by about $4 million over the last three years.
“What you have to realize is that we’re in the worst recession that any of us have ever experienced during our lifetime,” he said.
A number of recent appeals on property taxes that cost Douglas County about $1 million also hurt, the chairman said.
Amid the budgetary crisis, the county has been careful when it comes to using taxpayer dollars, Worthan said.
“We’ll continue to be very prudent with your tax dollars,” he said, “and we’ll continue to move forward and be a very conservative board as we have been for a number of years.”
The comments about finances led to commissioners mentioning the fiscal calendar, which falls in line with the calendar year. Property taxes, which are collected from October to December, make up almost 50 percent of the county budget, Worthan said.
In an effort to have those revenues handy earlier in the year, officials are exploring changing the fiscal year, Worthan said.
“We advised the county administrator (Eric Linton) last week to take a look at what Cherokee County was doing,” he said. “They had changed theirs, and the cash flow seems to be working better."
Hallman said if the county changes the timeframe on tax collections, it will most likely start with the beginning of one of the four quarters: January, April, July or October.
One strong possibility is the July start, Commissioner Ann Jones Guider said after the meeting. She noted that Georgia, as well as other counties, cities and school districts, start their fiscal years then.
The reason for the current calendar is that crop cycles end in the fall, Guider said.
“And that’s when the crops came in—that’s when people could pay their taxes,” she said. “But that’s antiquated now.”
Also at the meeting:
- Assistant District Attorney Duncan Munn’s annual contract renewal was approved.
- GreyStone Power Corp. was given right-of-way easement for work on the Fairplay Library construction site.
- Aeris Services was approved to recycle used electronic equipment that was previously declared surplus.
- A flood-plain property at 105 Wren Circle in the Austell portion of the county was approved to be purchased with about $23,300 from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
- Temporary access was given to water and sewer crews to work on county land for a future housing project.
- Larry Lewallen was reappointed to the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority Board.