Dawson County is less than $2 million away from being debt free, County Commission Chair Mike Berg said in his eighth annual State of the County address.
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Berg offered other good news:
Business revenues are up, residential home inventory is down, and unemployment is down.
We have about $1 million in water and sewer and another one million in fire trucks to pay for, Berg said. This means our new courthouse, our fire stations, and street upgrades are all just about paid for.
According to Berg, 75 counties in the state are still borrowing money and will be paying interests on those loans.
Another bright spot for builders and realtors in the county is in the inventory of residential homes, which has declined from 19 to 20 months to just 3 to 4 months. Residential inventory reflects the number of foreclosed or abandoned homes that are available for purchase. and the amount of time it would take the market would absorb those homes, according to Jason Power, a real estate professional with Hudson Realty. A few new ones are coming on line line, but inventory is certainly down. , When new home building restarts, they will be smaller and lower in price than in the past, Berg said. SPLOST revenues are up 5 to 8 percent and continue to climb, he said, but the county will have trouble getting back to where it was. On the downside, Berg said the Dawson County tax digest is down as estimated fair-market property values continue to decline. Of 9,000 residential properties in the county, only 741 will see an increase in value. Preliminary projections are that we will lose approximately 12 percent from the tax digest, said County Manager Kevin Tanner. Despite the lost property tax revenues, most business revenues are up throughout the county. Our revenues are up 20 percent this year over last year, said James Abbott, manager at Dawsonville Hardware Company. And last years was up over the previous year. Things are moving up. Additionally, unemployment is at 8 percent, which is better than all but two counties in the district, said Berg, who spoke for 30 minutes without notes.
Berg also touched on: Unfunded mandates: Following the 2012 legislative session, Dawson County faces 95 unfunded state initiatives, which refers to tasks the county must accomplish but without financial help from the state. Judicial reform: Drug court and DUI court. Repeat offenders are down, but the courts are expensive to implement. Juvenile justice: Dawson County needs to put people in place to help the children, and the county may need one new public defender. Birthday tax: 6.5 percent of the new tax on cars goes directly to the state. Energy breaks: Discount on energy for manufacturing is going away. The state said counties can tax manufacturers at will, but the county will probably say no since Dawson is trying to attract business. Transportation: A one-cent sales tax, also called T-SPLOST, gives Dawson County control over its road projects. The county submitted 13 projects, and four of them were accepted. These include: the widening of Lumpkin Campground Road; a round-about installation at the intersection of Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 9, near Riverview Middle School; the Northeast Georgia bypass, 400 and Kilough Church Road; and the Shoal Creek Bridge project. If T-SPLOST is passed, we will get $1.2 million every year for 10 years, Berg said. If our voters dont pass it, Dawson County effectively becomes a donor county, meaning if the surrounding counties of Hall and Forsyth pass it, Dawson County has no choice but to participate. The vote is regional and not by county. If it doesnt pass, there is no plan B.
Berg also said that no additional furlough days for county employees are anticipated. Several members in the audience were interviewed after the address. I believe in our community, said State Farm Insurance agent Carla Boutin. I think our commissioners are doing a great job. Tommy Hosea, who is considering filling an empty city council seat, said the county commissioners are doing everything they can to work with the city. They have always been very accessible, he said. Im encouraged theres going to be cooperation between the city and county, said Doug Powell. That hasnt always been there. I know other counties have problems, but it looks like were really pulling together. Clint Smith, who is running for a seat in the Georgia House, said, We are blessed in Dawson County. There is a lot to be proud of, and everybody is working together, including the chamber, to grow and prosper. James Grogan, the appointed mayor of Dawsonville, said, Budget-wise, we all understand whats going on. We have to find ways to provide general services. I am encouraged that retail sales are up, and there are housing starts in both the city and county.