I trust that each of you had a blessed Christmas this year.
Most of our county offices were closed and most of our employees were off to spend the holiday with family and friends. However, our emergency services department, the sheriff’s office and our road department were hard at work to ensure that the rest of us were safe this season.
This winter has started off with a bang in north Georgia.
Our road department has already spread almost 50 tons of salt on our county roadways in December. This compares to only 75 tons that were used all last winter.
Eddie Savage and his crews have done an outstanding job in some tough conditions to keep our roads safe and open to traffic. Having driven in many of the surrounding counties during the last two weather events, I am confident that no other road department does a better job. I ask that you join me in thanking all of these employees who had to miss time away from their families during the holiday to keep us moving and safe.
During 2010, all of your county employees have worked hard to control spending and to be good stewards of the tax dollars you have entrusted us with. With the current state of the economy and the decline in revenue we have experienced, we knew that the original revenue projections adopted as part of the 2010 budget may not hold up. As a result, your employees were able to cut an additional 8 percent of expenses from the approved 2010 budget. This was accomplished through the combined efforts and hard work of our employees and all of our elected officials.
With these cuts we are now anticipating ending the year without having to take any money from our fund balance.
The State of Georgia recommends that counties keep between 15 and 25 percent in a fund balance for emergencies. I think we will all agree that the last three years have been difficult times for all of us and we have been forced to dip into our own fund balances.
In many ways these times have been true emergencies. Currently, we have around 14.7 percent in fund balance; but I am hopeful that number will rise above 15 percent at the conclusion of the 2010 audit.
This is much better than many counties across the state that have been forced to essentially deplete their fund reserves to maintain services.
One of our neighboring counties is still furloughing employees on a monthly basis and has been doing so for more than 2 1/2 years. We feel that this is a short-term solution to a much longer-term problem and have looked for other ways to cut cost in 2010. We will continue to plan to receive less revenue from property taxes over the next few years as we realize the value of real-estate in the area has declined. The amount that will be received in 2011 will be less than received in 2010 and we anticipate this trend continuing for the next three years.
We have also been closely monitoring the construction of the new government center and courthouse. We continue to be well within budget and still anticipate completing the project under budget.
The weather has created some delays to the construction, but you can expect the new courthouse to open in the late summer or early fall. We will continue to monitor SPLOST V revenue as it comes in to pay for this facility.
With the steps that have been taken I do feel that the collections will be sufficient to have the courthouse completely paid for at the end of SPLOST V in the summer of 2015.
As we end 2010 and start a new year, you can be assured that your county staff will continue to be diligent in their efforts to be fiscally responsible with your hard earned tax dollars.
We are starting to see some increase in sales tax dollars, and I believe we will end 2010 up 2 percent in sales tax collections during 2009. That is positive news and gives us hope that we have better days ahead of us.
I wish each of you a blessed holiday season and a bright and prosperous New Year. As always, if the county staff or I can be of service to you, please call on us, we are here to serve you.
Kevin Tanner is the Dawson County manager, he can be reached at (706) 344-3501 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.