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November 30--  A former Navy SEAL credits his experiences at Vidalia High School with the standards and values which served him well during his military career.

Fred Godbee graduated from Vidalia High School in 1986 and after college at Georgia Tech went on to serve with the SEALs for 14 years before resigning as a Lieutenant Commander.  He now works with Morgan-Stanley in Atlanta.


Godbee (R) is welcomed to the Vidalia Kiwanis Club by President Paul Threlkeld.

He remembers well those who influenced his early years.  "Buck Cravey for one.  He was hard on us in a good way, in a fatherly way, and he held us to a high standard.  Ralph Parsons was another great influence on my life and most of my teachers at Vidalia High School.  I don't how it is today, but back then Vidalia High School had a pretty good education considering we were in South Georgia compared to the city folks.  The Vidalia Recreation Department, the United Methodist Church had a great influence and my neighborhood.  I grew up in a great neighborhood and it's hard to get those kind of values anymore, especially in larger cities, that I got here in Vidalia," Godbee says.

Serving in the military is a Godbee family tradition.  His father, Barron, served in World War II and he has uncles who served in Korea and Vietnam.  "I was into it as a boy and when I was in ROTC at Georgia Tech I learned about the SEALs and as I matured I realized that was what I ought to be doing," he says.

He also believes the military is a good option for many young people.  "It helped me grow up a lot and today to be a parent and a businessman.  I would encourage it.  Everybody has to search out what they are best fitted for, but if they don't know what they want to do, the military is a great place to go," he advises.


November 30-- Former Appling County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard W. Crosby, 36, was sentenced yesterday in United States District Court for the offense of being an accessory after the fact to a drug crime.  Appearing before Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick, Crosby was sentenced to two months in prison, to be followed by a one-year term of supervised release.  He was also fined $1,500. 

        Evidence presented during the guilty plea and sentencing hearings showed that Crosby warned an alleged drug dealer that a search warrant was to be executed at the drug suspect’s Appling County residence.  Crosby learned of the search warrant during a briefing given by a drug task force agent at the Sheriff’s Office.  Crosby then relayed this information to a third party with instructions to warn the resident about the pending execution of the warrant.  This disclosure was made in order to hinder the apprehension of the alleged drug dealer. 

United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “Mr. Crosby was a sworn law enforcement officer at the time of his offense and his actions betrayed the trust the public had placed in him.  Actions that jeopardize ongoing investigations and potentially endanger law enforcement personnel will not be tolerated and offenders will be vigorously prosecuted.”     


November 29--  A year-and-a-half ago, the teenage daughter of Paula and Phil Jarriel was killed in a traffic accident.  Katie Jarriel had just completed her sophomore year at Pinewood Christian Academy and died only hours after attending the school's graduation ceremony.

Tuesday her mother spoke to a chapel service at Robert Toombs Christian Academy.{mosimage}

"I hope they realize they're not invincible.  I want them to know that it's real and it can happen to Christian Academy school kids, just like mine, and that eternity is determined at that point.  Once Katie had that accident, her eternity began at that point and it's important to know right now where your eternity is going to be.  Is Jesus going to step in for you, or are you going to be left with the only other alternative which is Hell.  It's important for them to know they've got that Savior card in their pocket," Paula Jerriel said.

Some of the RTCA students stood and witnessed for Christ after Jerriel's remarks.  

"They need Christ to step forward on judgement day and say, 'God, this one's mine.  I know him and he knows me.'  That was my whole point.  Is Jesus going to step forward and say 'I know her voice, I know his voice, they're one of mine.'  Or, is he going to say, like Matthew said, 'Depart from me, I never knew you,' she said.

Paula grew up in a Christian home and says only her faith has gotten her through the loss of her daughter.  "I need God everyday to keep me out of that dark place," she says.

November 29--  For a student whom teachers describe as intelligent and bound for success, Travis Hudson had a unique reaction to his first two quarters at Southeastern Technical College.

 “I wanted to quit so bad I couldn’t stand it,” said Hudson.{mosimage}

 But then, Hudson is himself a unique story.

The 22-year-old from Wrightsville was a champion turkey caller on the national stage when he was in his early teens, acquiring the skill through a combination of careful observation and complete boredom.

“My daddy, when I was about 8, had bought a bunch of turkeys,” said Hudson. “I’d go out and sit with the turkeys because I had nothing else to do. So, I learned how turkeys behave and how to turkey call that way, from just sitting and watching.”

All that sitting and watching paid off when, at 13, Hudson won a turkey calling contest his high school held and was approached by a representative of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He joined their youth division and, soon after, took first place in a statewide competition and second at nationals. Hudson doesn’t compete anymore, but he has called for professionals from Primos and Team Realtree.

Hudson entered his senior year of high school in 2007 and had to figure out what came next. He mulled over a number of possibilities, many of which involved higher education. These options, though attractive, presented a challenge for Hudson.

“In high school and my early college years, I had really bad ADD and ADHD,” said Hudson. “People that know that and know me, when I tell them I’m a deer hunter, they don’t see how I can sit in a deer stand for so long. But, it’s just peaceful when I’m out there by myself. It calms me down. And Miss Jill knew exactly what to do with that.”

Miss Jill is Jill Lehman, instructor for the Fish and Wildlife Management program at Southeastern Tech. She was one of the main motivators for Hudson’s enrollment at STC.

“Travis is an awesome little fellow,” said Lehman. “He’s a very intelligent boy. But, you’ve got to learn how he learns, and then you can teach him.

 “It didn’t take long to realize that confining him in a classroom just was not working. I found myself having to go over stuff more and more so he could grasp it. But when we would go outside, he was different. If I took the class outside, he’d do so much better. So, that’s what I did.”

Though the early goings remained difficult, getting more and more hands-on in Lehman’s class showed promise for Hudson. He still had trouble from time to time, but the outdoors work calmed and focused him just the way deer hunting did.

“Once I started, I struggled for a little while, my first two quarters probably,” said Hudson. “I wanted to quit so bad I couldn’t stand it. But, I thought about it, realized you can’t really get anywhere without going to college, and so I decided to try harder. And sure enough, this year I’ll be through with my associate’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management.”

Hudson’s hard work has already paid off beyond college. Hudson discovered a job opening at Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen, pursued it, and is now on track to become the park’s next assistant manager.

“I’m just so excited for him,” said Lehman. “That boy has had to work through some struggles, and he’s just not going to be defeated.”


November 29--  The Georgia Department of Revenue issued a press release reminding online shoppers about state sales taxes in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Revenue reminds residents who plan to take advantage of cyber shopping this holiday season to make sure Georgia sales tax was charged on each online purchase.  Online retailers often do not charge sales tax at the time of sale, and some even falsely advertise that you can shop online “tax free.”  However, when Georgia sales tax is not charged by the online retailer, it becomes the purchaser’s responsibility to remit use tax on the purchase.  Georgia residents who make online purchases without paying sales tax can remit use tax using the form online at the Department of Revenue’s website.

Use tax applies when the seller does not charge sales tax on a taxable item. Use tax has existed in Georgia since 1951, and it applies to online purchases just as it has always applied to mail order or phone purchases from out-of-state sellers.

“Use tax helps even the playing field for Georgia businesses that are required to charge sales on their purchases to Georgia residents,” says Revenue Commissioner, Doug MacGinnitie, “Without use tax, out-of-state sellers would be able to offer lower prices than in-state business that employ our citizens.”

Like sales tax revenue, use tax revenue becomes general revenue of the State of Georgia. 



November 28--  A Superior Court hearing is set regarding the recall election petition against the Montgomery County school board chairwoman.

Senior Judge L.A. McConnell, Jr. will hold a hearing Monday morning at nine o'clock at the Montgomery County courthouse in Mount Vernon.  He will determine if there is sufficient cause to proceed with a petition seeking recall of chairwoman Deloris James.

A group of Montgomery County citizens headed by Rudy Nanney claims James has violated her oath of office, committed misconduct in office and is guilty of failure to perform duties prescribed by law.

James' attorney, Joe McGovern of Glennville, sought the hearing and said in court papers the petition circulated by Nanney and four others alleges facts which are false solely for political purposes.

McGovern also states the recall petition application secured by Nanney from Election Superintendent Rubie Nell Sanders does not comply with state law and lacks a factual basis to support a recall election. 

November 28--  A Vidalia police officer involved in a fatal shooting early Thanksgiving morning was fired upon according to the GBI.

GBI Agent-In-Charge Todd Lowery says investigators believe the officer returned fire in self-defense after arriving in a parking lot behind the American Legion Post home on McIntosh Street.  Lowery reports police had been to the location earlier in the night because of the crowd in the parking lot.  He says the crowd scattered after the shooting which occurred between one and two a.m.

One of the shots fired struck 19-year-old Trey Hunter of Vidalia in the head.  Lowery says agents found evidence that three different guns, including the officer's, were fired at the scene.  Multiple shell casings were found on the parking lot and some vehicles in the parking lot were hit by bullets.

Police won't know which gun fired the bullet which killed Hunter until they get results of an autopsy and ballistics testing.

November 24--  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the fatal shooting of a Vidalia teenager early Thursday morning.

Special Agent Todd Lowery reports 19-year-old Trey Mario Hunter was shot in an exchange of gunfire that involved a Vidalia police officer and possibly a third shooter.  Lowery says police were called to a disturbing the peace incident in a parking lot adjacent to Vidalia Funeral Home and to the rear of the American Legion Post on McIntosh Street.  Lowery says it was the second call the police had responded to at the club Wednesday night.  The shooting happened beween one and two a.m. Thursday.

Toombs County Coroner Ron Hall reports Hunter suffered a gunshot wound to the head and that an autopsy will be conducted.


GBI agents cordoned off the area around the funeral home parking lot and were on the scene Thanksgiving morning plotting the location of shell casings and other evidence.

Lowery reports the GBI is seeking another person who may have been involved in the shooting and that the identity of the Vidalia police officer is being withheld pending further investigation.  He asks that anyone with information about the shooting incident call the GBI at 478-374-6988 or contact the Vidalia Police Department.  Agent Kendra Lynn is leading the GBI investigation.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits issued a statement saying findings of the GBI will be forwarded to District Attorney Hayward Altman.

November 22--  Some of the proceeds from the video game gambling raid last year in Vidalia ended up in the Vidalia Police Department's coffers Monday.


District Attorney Hayward Altman (left) presented the department with a check for $175,000. Accepting for the city are (L-R) Mayor Ronnie Dixon, City Manager Bill Torrance and Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits.

"There was an extensive investigation that was actually six to nine months long.  A lot of good police work went into it by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. the Toombs County Sheriff's Office and the Vidalia Police Department," the DA said.

The money is earmarked for equipment and the VPD is planning to buy a new police car and two training simulators.  Police Chief Frank Waits says one of the simulators is for firearms training.

"If you have someone who's having trouble out on the range, we can bring them in and test them.  It also teaches 'shoot-don't shoot' judgemental shooting scenarios," the chief says.

The other simulator involves driver training for officers.  "It gives you scenarios like getting to an armed robbery safely, pullovers, emergency vehicle driving procedures," Chief Waits says.

Chief Waits reports the simulators will be shared with other area law enforcement agencies.

Earlier the District Attorney presented a $75,000 check to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight for the purchase of vehicles.

November 22--  Video: Large fight at Telfair State Prison
Department of Correction officials say that rumors that prison guards were stabbed and the prison was over taken by inmates is not true. Click here: WALB-TV

November 22--  More people than ever are expected for Wednesday's Thanksgiving dinner at God's Storehouse in Vidalia.

Director Tina Houser says she expects to feed 1,400 people who otherwise would not have a Thanksgiving meal.

"The need this year has about tripled.  I'm feeding something like 250 families a month just in groceries, so the people who are justing walking in the door now need food and I put the number we will feed up to 1,400," she reports.

Tina says there's been a lot of support this year from community churches and indviduals. "I couldn't do this by myself.  If I didn't have the support of the pastors and the churches here and the community and individuals, I could not do this.  I need help to put this on because it cost about $5,500 this year to put this dinner on," she said.

God's Storehouse on McIntosh Street in Vidalia is co-located with The Jesus Inn which provides shelter for homeless people.

By the way, Tina says she's got the main meal covered Wednesday, but could use some more pies and cakes for dessert.  If you can help with that, her number is 538-1730.

November 21--  You can help the city of Vidalia obtain two grants.  Here's how according to Carol Kennedy at City Hall.

"Please help Vidalia… We have been given another chance to win the Pepsi grant only this time we are trying for a new DARE car AND the Community Pond!

Please help us win by voting for us every single day in November. You can text your vote and Pepsi will not charge anything to your phone...promise!

DARE car -send text message 109713 to contact number 73774 also vote online at

Community Pond - send text message 109890 to contact number 73774 also vote online at



November 21--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville discusses the state's "rainy day fund" and implications for the 2012 budget.



Over the past few months, we have discussed the perspective of bond rating agencies and their opinion of Georgia's fiscal governance.  In review, Georgia keeps the highest bond rating available because of these factors:


1.)     Georgia has a well diversified economy that, while lagging the national recovery, still is positioned to recover in the medium term.

2.)     Georgia, unlike our national counterparts, has a history of making tough decisions when faced with budget shortfalls.

3.)     Georgia has always been committed to good financial practices and oversight.  Retirement and debt obligations are properly funded and treated with caution.

4.)    Georgia has a Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR) that has provided a cushion when economic downturn has struck the state budget.


This week we will discuss this last item by exploring how the RSR works, how it has buffered the state in the past and how to ensure it is there the next time it is needed.



The RSR was set up to be the "rainy day" fund of the state.  Any revenue collected over budgeted expenditures is automatically added to the RSR along with any unspent state agency funds at the end of the fiscal year.  The RSR is capped at 15% of prior year revenues according to state law.


Withdrawing funds from the RSR can happen in one of three ways:


1.)    If revenues have not come in as budgeted, the RSR can be used to cover the deficit

2.)    If the RSR exceeds 4% of the prior year revenues, the Governor can include in the revenue estimate and appropriate any excess above 4%.

3.)    1% of prior year revenues can be released from the RSR in order to fund K-12 needs.


At the end of FY2011, the RSR stood at $445 million which is the equivalent of 2.69% of prior year revenues.  Putting this amount of money into context is very important because while that seems like a lot of money, it really isn't.  Currently the State of Georgia collects over $18 billion in state taxes and fees.  This easily puts Georgia on the scale of a Fortune 500 company in terms of revenue collections.  The state's current services range from educating preschoolers to university students, providing safety net health care for over 2 million people, incarcerating over 50,000 prisoners and providing patrolled and maintained roadways among other things.  On average, the State spends approximately $40 to $50 million a day for state operations (a third of this indirectly is for teacher salaries alone).  An RSR of $445 million, while seemingly large, would only support state operations for 9 to 11 days.  It should also be noted that this figure also includes $165 million that will be utilized in the amended budget for K-12 needs.  Many companies would argue that having 30 days of operations is prudent. 



The size of the RSR is debatable because Georgia is not a private company.  Since the funds in the reserve are primarily the result of tax collections, fiscal leaders have tried to set a balance of providing a cushion to the state budget without unnecessarily tying up taxpayer dollars.  Probably the best way to gauge the appropriate level of reserves is to look at the RSR since 2000.  Since that time, Georgia has weathered 2 recessions with the help of the RSR.


In 2000, the RSR stood at approximately $1.66 billion, well over the 30 day mark.  In 2001, the reserves rose to its record peak of $1.8 billion.  It was around this time that the economic downturn following 9-ll started to take its toll on Georgia's economy and budget.  In 2002, budget writers utilized approximately $700 million of the RSR to cover the loss of revenue.  By the time the recession ended in 2004, the RSR stood at approximately $197 million.  In three years, the state had utilized $1.6 billion.


2005 to 2007 saw an uptick in the economy so that by December 2007, the reserves were hovering at about $1.7 billion.  In 2008, Georgia's economy started to wane and required approximately $500 million in reserves in June 2008 for year ending balancing.  But prior to this, in the spring of 2008, the Governor was looking at positive economic news and accordingly proposed the largest revenue estimate ever for FY2009.  As the economy got gloomier and gloomier, this revenue estimate had to be adjusted 5 times.  Even these corrections were not enough to avoid utilizing the RSR to the tune of over $900 million in FY2009.  At the end of FY2010, the RSR hovered around $250 million.


This rapid replenishment and usage is the main reason why bond raters monitor the RSR so closely.  It is interesting to see that Moody's, one of the three credit agencies has the RSR in both Georgia strengths and the credit weaknesses categories.  The RSR is credit strength because Georgia has a "history of rapid reserve building (after the 2001 recession)" but is a credit weakness because of "near depletion of reserves."



As we think about the upcoming session and the budgetary choices state leaders have to make, it will be important to keep the RSR in the back of our mind.  With anxiety about the national economy and the recovery, it is not far fetched to believe if the state budget will need the RSR again.  It will be important to make budget decisions so that the RSR will be ready if we need it again.  There will always be a decision to be made as to whether to spend increased tax collections or to carve out funds for building up the RSR.  

November 21--  Many manufacturers and companies in the U.S. have jobs but say they have trouble finding qualified and motivated workers.

The folks at Southeastern Tech's Economic Development Center in Vidalia are trying to help local employers find good employees.  Even with an area unemployment rate over ten percent, companies are experiencing problems finding and keeping good workers.

At a workforce seminar last week, Bobby Hicks told employers his family's company, U.S. Energy, attracts workers with a four-day work week, something he believes appeals to younger workers. Hicks is shown here with seminar facilitator Sandy Marshall.{mosimage}

"We definitely have those generational changes.  The older generation seems to have trouble with new technology.  The younger kids don't want to work with their hands. So what we've done is we realize they value their time off so we've switched over to four ten-hour days and other things to accomodate the newer generation," Hicks reports.

"There's a concern out there that production falls off the last couple of hours, but I've found out the fear of going back to five eight-hour days is enough for them not to let production fall off," he says.

Hicks says the four-day work week has helped U.S. Energy increase productivity. "We've almost had a 50 percent increase in production with the same work staff, the same total amount of hours and the same equipment," he reports.

November 17--  The chairwoman of the Montgomery County school board wants a judge to determine if there are sufficient grounds for her to face a recall election.

The attorney for Deloris James filed court papers Thursday asking that a Superior Court judge be appointed to rule on a recall application petition filed Monday.  

A five-member group of citizens headed by Rudy Nanney of Montgomery County submitted a petition with 118 signatures to start the recall process.

Attorney Joe McGovern says Nanney's alleged facts in the application are either "altogether false or gross mischaracterizations alleged soley for political purposes."

The lawyer also wants a ruling from a judge on whether former Montgomery County High School principal Luke Smith is classified as a state employee.  Smith's contract with the Montgomery County school system was not renewed last year and he is among those who circulated the recall petition against James.  He currently is employed by the Wheeler County school system.

McGovern says state law prohibits state employees from circulating a recall petition and that 59 signatures obtained by Smith are void and cannot be counted.

Montgomery County Superior Court Clerk Keith Hamilton says James' petition for a hearing will be referred to the Oconee Judicial Circuit's administrative law judge who will arrange for a judge outside the circuit to hear the case.

November 16--  Reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports two high ranking Georgia elected officials, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams of Lyons have been treated to a high profile golf tournament at Sea Island by lobbyists. Cagle got the bennie this year and Williams last year, according to the paper.

"Lobbyists for a new for-profit cancer hospital paid more than $5,000 for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to play in a pro-am golf tournament on St. Simons Island in October, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Cagle, a two-term Republican and former Hall County state senator, was treated to the round of golf, a cocktail party and two free nights at the exclusive Cloister's resort, according to reports filed with the state ethics commission.

A lobbyist for Illinois-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America spent $5,000 on Oct. 12 for Cagle to participate in the McGladrey Classic, a PGA Tour event. Lobbyist Kathleen Nowak also reports spending $389 for Cagle's accommodations at The Cloister, a five-star resort. In addition, Robb Willis, an Atlanta-based lobbyist for CTCA reported spending $318 for lodging for Cagle on Oct. 11 and $225 for an Oct. 12 Cagle golf outing, the same day as the McGladrey Classic.

Georgia does not cap the value of gifts public officials can accept from lobbyists. But government watchdog groups, concerned about the influence lavish gifts might have on public officials' decision making, have for years asked state lawmakers to cap gift giving at $1,000.

CTCA has had recent business before state lawmakers. The company is building a 212,000-square-foot facility in Newnan with plans to open in September, a project made possible by 2008 legislation that created a loophole in Georgia law to allow out-of-state medical providers to operate in the state.

Cagle is on a state-sponsored trade mission to Australia this week and was unavailable for comment on his golf outing. His spokesman, Ben Fry, said Cagle was there to support the tournament's charity, the Davis Love Foundation.

William Perry, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, said incidents like this are why they and other groups are pushing for restrictions on how much lobbyists can give.

The Cagle trip, "doesn't do anything to benefit the people of Georgia," Perry said. "It doesn't educate him on public policy, it doesn't provide anything about working in the state Senate. It's only about currying favor for the lobbyist."

Fry, the lieutenant governor's spokesman, said it was "disappointing that some would attempt to distort his support of the charitable work of the Davis Love Foundation and economic development in a sad attempt to score cheap political points."

After the AJC asked Cagle's office about the golf outing, Cancer Treatment Centers of America amended its disclosure report to delete the $5,000 cost and replaced it with an expenditure of only $750 for the same trip. Asked why the report was changed, Willis said that while the company wrote a check for $5,000, "most of that is charitable donation. All [Cagle] got was a round of golf. He went by a cocktail party open to the players, sponsors and he got a round of golf out of that."

Willis said he spoke with the tournament director who told him that about 25 percent to 30 percent of the $5,000 was to cover the actual expense of the event and the remainder is passed on to the Davis Love Foundation. Willis said the actual value of the event to Cagle was $750. But if a person wanted to pay his or her own way into the tournament, then it would cost $5,000, which Willis acknowledged.

CTCA was wrong to change its report, said Rick Thompson, former director of the state ethics commission who now consults elected officials and businesses on complying with ethics laws. The $5,000 cost "is still the value. If everyone else is paying $5,000 and you're paying for an elected official to play, the lobbyist has to report the entire amount. It doesn't matter how it's divided up."

Holly Laberge, the current ethics commission director, called CTCA's reporting "sloppy," and said "if the $5,000 is the actual expenditure, they are required by law to disclose the expenditure."

"Yeah, it's messy," she said. "I would have some questions for them."

In 2010, CTCA also reported spending $5,000 for the same event, only that time the beneficiary was Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.

Since its business interests in Georgia began CTCA lobbyists have spent tens of thousands of dollars on state officials. In 2008 CTCA convinced legislators to change Georgia state law to allow it to build a $150 million hospital. The company had sought approval for the change for more than a year, hired top-drawer Capitol lobbyists to push its bill and spent thousands of dollars flying lawmakers to cancer facilities and wining and dining them.

At the time Cagle received a $2,000 campaign contribution from CTCA, who also gave to leaders in the House.

The company had been barred from Georgia by the state's "certificate of need" rule, which was created to prevent an oversupply of medical facilities. It prevented out-of-state providers from offering health care services in Georgia.

The bill granted an exception to the cancer hospital, based on its promise that most patients would come from out of state. CTCA offers cancer treatment and alternative therapies, including spiritual guidance and nutrition."

November 16--  Citizens who have information on local crimes can get some easy money from Crimestoppers.

A $1,000 reward is available if you know who stole a 1996 Red and White International rollback tow truck from the James Thompson Service Center on Highway 280 in Vidalia in September.

A $500 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the burglary and arson case which occurred at Horton's Service Center on Pine Street in Vidalia on October 31.  A set of four tires and rims were taken from a Chevrolet Impala which was also set on fire inside the shop.

A $300 reward is offered regarding an armed robbery which occurred at the McIntosh Grocery in Vidalia on October 13.  Police say a tall black male wearing a hooded gray sweatshirt with a blue bandana across his face held up the store clerk at gunpoint and fled on foot.

Any citizen who has information on any of these crimes can call the CrimeStopper hotline anonymously.  If the information leads to an arrest, the caller will get the reward money "no questions asked."

If you have information on the stolen truck from Thompson's, the theft and arson at Horton's or the armed robbery at the McIntosh Grocery, call the CrimeStoppers Hotlline at 1-866-439-6313.

November 15--  The Vidalia City Council is taking a cautious approach on granting business licenses to businesses which may not be what they appear to be.

The city has a 270-day moratorium on licenses for stores such as the recently closed Vidalia Business Center.  At its November meeting, the council was told the store wants to reopen in Vidalia and that owners report grossing as much as $50,000 a week with online sweepstakes games.  Such stores have drawn the attention of state officials and local prosecutors for possible violation of state law.

The city council was also told some street lights on Highway 280 in Vidalia may be turned off.  According to city officials, the Toombs County Commission is bowing out of a 1996 agreement to allocate $10,000 each year to help pay for the lighting.  Expected to go dark are 37 lights starting at Checker's eastward to the Vidalia City limits.

(Correction:  We've been informed the lighting issue is not due to a 1996 agreement, but rather because the lights in question are now in the city limits of both Vidalia and Lyons.  County manager Doug Eaves says 29 lights along Highway 280 in Vidalia and eight in Lyons will no longer be funded by the county.)

The council also voted to start the process of annexing some property on the Bob Sharp Road and on the Ezra Taylor Road into the city.

November 15--  A group of Montgomery County citizens has filed an application for a petition seeking a recall election of county school board chairwoman Deloris James.

The application was filed late Monday with Election Superintendent Ruby Nell Sanders and contains the signatures of 118 registered voters in James' home school board district of Alston and Higgston.  Election officials have five working days to verify the signatures from voting records.

The petition circulators include Chairman Rudy Nanny, Johnny Brantley, Terry Outler, Luke Smith and Ronnie McLemore.  They claim James has violated her oath of office, committed acts of misconduct and failed to perform duties prescribed by law.

Under state law on recall elections, the chairwoman has four days to petition the Montgomery County Superior Court where a judge from outside the Oconee Judicial Circuit will determine if there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a recall petition.

If the petition application is approved, organizers will need to obtain the signatures of 30 percent of the 1,481 voters who were registered to vote in James' district when she was elected in 2008.  

James has hired Glennville attorney Joe McGovern to obtain a court hearing on her behalf.  The petition organizers will have to convince a judge there is sufficient cause to have a recall election.

November 15--  The Toombs County school board is asking voters to approve extension of a one percent local option sales tax for school construction.

The board approved a joint resolution with Vidalia City Schools at its November meeting.  

School Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley says the estimated $15 million dollars in sales tax revenue will allow the system to buy bonds to build a new high school and a new elementary school.

"Under our previous SLPOST we've been planning for a new high school and new Toombs Central Elementary School, but there's not enough money available due to the downturn in sales taxes to complete the schools as expected.  So we want to have a continuation SPLOST to guarantee money to complete the projects as designed under our prior SPLOST.  It's not an additional sales tax, it's a continuation tax so we can sell bonds to complete those schools as planned," he says.

Toombs Central was built in 1955 and was last refurbished 15 years ago.  Toombs County High School is overcrowded and has already been added onto twice, Dr. Brantley says.

Voters will have a chance to vote yes or no on the continuation of a penny sales tax in a referendum being called for March 6, 2012.

November 14--  Governor Nathan Deal's office issued a statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to rule on the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

"Gov. Nathan Deal welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear Georgia’s case challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. More than half of the nation’s states have signed on to the case.

“The state of Georgia has been a leader in the fight against the crippling mandates of Obamacare. As a member of Congress, I was the first to question the constitutionality of the individual mandate on the floor of the House. It’s appropriate and expected that the court would rule on an issue so central to Americans’ individual liberties. As governor, I’m especially happy to see the court look into whether the federal government can force state governments to take on huge new spending programs. Obamacare would vastly expand our state’s Medicaid enrollment, creating a huge new tax burden on Georgia taxpayers. Frankly, our state can’t afford these new unfunded mandates, and what we’re seeing is that the majority of states feel the same way. The outcome of this case is hugely important to the future of Georgia, and we have high hopes for a favorable decision from the Supreme Court next year.”

November 13--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville analyzes state revenue trends in his "Report From the Senate."


October revenue numbers continued a healthy overall trend showing a 5.4% increase for the month for a total contribution to the treasury of $1.3 billion.


Individual Income Taxes had another strong month coming in at a 9.8% increase.  The increase of $62.4 million came from an increase in Individual Withholding payments of $52.5 million and Individual Income Tax Return payments increasing by $10.5 million.


Net Sales Tax collections to the state continued to be lethargic at 2.3%.  We will look at recent trends in Sales Tax collections later in the column.


Combined Motor Fuel Taxes were up 10.5% or about $7.8 million for the month. Both sales taxes on fuel and excise taxes were positive for the month.


Corporate Taxes were down by some $4.2 million for the month.  We will look deeper into this category in the Year To Date section.


Tobacco Taxes were up slightly at 0.3% and alcohol taxes were negative at -6.5%.  More on this category later.



With one third of the year gone by, there is enough data to get a good feel as to how the state is progressing.  It is also a good time to examine trends, particularly as the fall has brought financial and business uncertainty.  It is a good idea to see if all the parts of the state system are pulling in the same direction.


Year to Date, total revenues are up 6.85% on an increase of $339.2 million on collections of $5.3 billion.  When we use our adjustment factor recognizing the one month increase in refunds in July of 2010, our "true" growth number is 4.94%--still very encouraging.  Leading the way by far is the Individual Income Tax category, about 50% of state revenues, showing an 11.1% increase or 7.56% if adjusted as above.  This income tax category totals $2.875 billion year to date or an increase of $286 million.  What is driving this increase?  Looking inside those numbers we see healthy increases in business activity.  Individual Withholding payments, an indicator of business activity, are up $135 million or 5.2% so far this year.  Individual Income Tax Assessments are up $13.5 million or 39.4%. All other Individual Tax Categories are up a total of 39.4%. 


So, it does appear the increase in state revenues is being driven by employment and by income and not necessarily by sales taxes as we will see next.




Net Sales tax collections to the state have trended lower all year since June.  Year to Date, net sales taxes are only showing a 2.3% increase over the same four months last year.  So far the gain in this category is only $48.3 million for the year on total collections of $1.75 billion for the four months.


Here are the top sales tax categories and the individual increase over the same 4 months of FY2011:

               Wholesale Trade              Incr. 16.2%          Automotive               Incr. 4.3%           

               Retail Trade                     Incr. 7.4%            Manufacturing           Incr. 4.3%

               Food/Gro.                       Incr. 7.0%            Home Furn.               Incr. 2.8%

               Utilities/Energy                 Incr. 6.1%            Accommodations       Incr. 2.0%

               Other Services                 Incr. 5.8%


The only two negative categories were Construction at -13.2% and Misc. services at -0.26%.

All of the factors involved in Sales Tax collections - Gross collections and distributions to local governments - appear to be level, so the only conclusion is that retail sales are little more than flat at the 2.8% level YTD.


Motor Fuel Taxes are up a combined 5.8% or an $18.6 million increase for the year.  If this rate keeps up, funds for roads and bridges will go up by over $50 million.  Of course, even though the last sales tax increase on fuel was suspended, due to the high price of gasoline; the sales tax rate is 12.9 cents per gallon versus the .104 cents a year ago.


Hard to find any positives in the Corporate Tax category.  Collections are down $23.5 million or -21.2% YTD.  The largest part of that category is refunds which are up after 4 months by $43.5 million or 46.5%.  Corporate Tax Payments were only up $13 million so there was more going out than coming in.


YTD, tobacco tax collections are up 17.5% or $11.5 million, which probably comes from two new large wholesale purchasers of tobacco products, one from a neighboring state.


Hard to figure what is going on in the Alcoholic Beverages Category and it makes me want to inquire about national and regional trends.  But malt beverages, beer, have been declining in taxes collected for 7 months, since April-down some $17.75 million or 33.5% during that period.  Paradoxically both liquor and wine excise taxes have remained "virtually flat" according to the Revenue Dept.


So, here is the billion dollar question:  Is the state growing economically like the growing withholding and income tax collections or is the state lurching along like the lethargic sales tax collections growth? 



November 13--  The Toombs County FFA Land Judging Team competed in the Central Region FFA Land Judging Career Development Event at Arrowhead Farms in Cochran.

Team members (L-R) are Toni Poole, Samantha Van Dyke, Kelsi Oliver, Jessica Speer and Sophia Sager.

      The Land Judging Career Development Event provides students the opportunity to determine land classification, use and treatment practices for selected sites.  The students must consider topsoil texture and thickness, effective depth, permeability of subsoil, slope,  erosion, drainage, and land capability. Samantha Van Dyke was the 7th highest individual at the event
FFA is a national organization of over 449,000 members preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.  FFA is an integral part of the agricultural education program in public schools.  The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Joey Montford and Mark Montfort are the Toombs County FFA Advisors.  The Land Judging Career Development Event is sponsored by Georgia Farm Credit Associations as a special project of the Georgia FFA Foundation.

November 11--  Welcomed by a stirring rendition of service songs by the kids from Vidalia Heritage Academy, an infantry combat commander from Fort Stewart made a Veterans Day address in Vidalia Friday.

"It puts things in perspective.  I really enjoy coming to see the veterans from our previous wars whether it's from World War II all the way up to Vietnam and later," said Colonel Jim Crider.


Colonel Crider with Toombs County Commissioner Jeff McCormick.

Colonel Crider talked about his experiences with the people in Iraq and later commented on how veterans from that war are being treated.

"I have personal experience with a lot of my soldiers and others that I've seen and I think our government is doing everything they can do.  There are more opportunities for help for the visible wounds, the ones you can see. The money and the resources have been applied in Washington, D.C and at Brooke Army Medical Center down in San Antonio.  And also for the wounds which aren't so visible, post traumatic stress disorder, there is an endless amount of help and counseling available for those who need it," he says.

November 11--  In observance of Veterans Day, Meadows Elementary had the opportunity to use this week to talk with our students about patriotism, what it means to be an American, pride in the greatest country on earth, and most of all speak about the men and women who have and continue to fight for this great nation and the freedoms we hold so dear.


Over one hundred students brought pictures of family and friends who have or are currently serving our nation to be displayed in the media center.  Students made a flag of handprints and footsteps and a Thank You, Veteran sign. In honor of Veterans Day, students wore red Friday.  God bless America and our Veterans! 

November 11--  NewsTalk970 WVOP's nationally syndicated The Michael Savage Show announces that, Presidential hopeful, Herman Cain will be on the live radio program tonight and is expected to make a major announcement on-air.  Mr. Cain is scheduled to be on-air with Dr. Michael Savage 7:30 p.m. EST.  This ends a week in which his  “accusers” have publicly come forward, and Cain has chosen the nationally syndicated Michael Savage Show to make this public announcement.


The Michael Savage Show is ranked as the 3rd largest syndicated talk show in the U.S. according to TALKERS Magazine with over 9 million estimated weekly listeners and now airs on over 300 stations nationwide.

The Michael Savage Show airs Live Monday through Friday from 6 - 9 p.m. on NewsTalk970 WVOP in Vidalia.

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter writes in Human Events:

David Axelrod's Pattern of Sexual Misbehavior

by Ann Coulter

Herman Cain has spent his life living and working all over the country -- Indiana, Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Washington, D.C. -- but never in Chicago.

So it's curious that all the sexual harassment allegations against Cain emanate from Chicago: home of the Daley machine and Obama consigliere David Axelrod.

Suspicions had already fallen on Sheila O'Grady, who is close with David Axelrod and went straight from being former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff to president of the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), as being the person who dug up Herman Cain's personnel records from the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

The Daley-controlled IRA works hand-in-glove with the NRA. And strangely enough, Cain's short, three-year tenure at the NRA is evidently the only period in his decades-long career during which he's alleged to have been a sexual predator.

After O'Grady's name surfaced in connection with the miraculous appearance of Cain's personnel files from the NRA, she issued a Clintonesque denial of any involvement in producing them -- by vigorously denying that she knew Cain when he was at the NRA. (Duh.)

And now, after a week of conservative eye-rolling over unspecified, anonymous accusations against Cain, we've suddenly got very specific sexual assault allegations from an all-new accuser out of ... Chicago.

Herman Cain has never lived in Chicago. But you know who has? David Axelrod! And guess who lived in Axelrod's very building? Right again: Cain's latest accuser, Sharon Bialek.

Bialek's accusations were certainly specific. But they also demonstrated why anonymous accusations are worthless.

Within 24 hours of Bialek's press conference, friends and acquaintances of hers stepped forward to say that she's a "gold-digger," that she was constantly in financial trouble -- having filed for personal bankruptcy twice -- and, of course, that she had lived in Axelrod's apartment building at 505 North Lake Shore Drive, where, she admits, she knew the man The New York Times calls Obama's "hired muscle."

Throw in some federal tax evasion, and she's Obama's next Cabinet pick.

The reason all this is relevant is that both Axelrod and Daley have a history of smearing political opponents by digging up claims of sexual misconduct against them.

John Brooks, Chicago's former fire commissioner, filed a lawsuit against Daley six months ago claiming Daley threatened to smear him with sexual harassment accusations if Brooks didn't resign. He resigned -- and the sexual harassment allegations were later found to be completely false.

Meanwhile, as extensively detailed in my book Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America, the only reason Obama became a U.S. senator -- allowing him to run for president -- is that David Axelrod pulled sealed divorce records out of a hat, first, against Obama's Democratic primary opponent, and then against Obama's Republican opponent.

One month before the 2004 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Obama was way down in the polls, about to lose to Blair Hull, a multimillionaire securities trader.

But then The Chicago Tribune -- where Axelrod used to work -- began publishing claims that Hull's second ex-wife, Brenda Sexton, had sought an order of protection against him during their 1998 divorce proceedings.

From then until Election Day, Hull was embroiled in fighting the allegation that he was a "wife beater." He and his ex-wife eventually agreed to release their sealed divorce records. His first ex-wife, daughters and nanny defended him at a press conference, swearing he was never violent. During a Democratic debate, Hull was forced to explain that his wife kicked him and he had merely kicked her back.

Hull's substantial lead just a month before the primary collapsed with the nonstop media attention to his divorce records. Obama sailed to the front of the pack and won the primary. Hull finished third with 10 percent of the vote.

Luckily for Axelrod, Obama's opponent in the general election had also been divorced.

The Republican nominee was Jack Ryan, a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard law and business schools, who had left his lucrative partnership at Goldman Sachs to teach at an inner-city school on the South Side of Chicago.

But in a child custody dispute some years earlier, Ryan's ex-wife, Hollywood sex kitten Jeri Lynn Ryan, had alleged that, while the couple was married, Jack had taken her to swingers clubs in Paris and New York.

Jack Ryan adamantly denied the allegations. In the interest of protecting their son, he also requested that the records be put permanently under seal.

Axelrod's courthouse moles obtained the "sealed" records and, in no time, they were in the hands of every political operative in Chicago. Knowing perfectly well what was in the records, Chicago Tribune attorneys flew to California and requested that the court officially "unseal" them -- over the objections of both Jack and Jeri Ryan.

Your honor, who knows what could be in these records!

A California judge ordered them unsealed, which allowed newspapers to publish the salacious allegations, and four days later, Ryan dropped out of the race under pressure from idiot Republicans (who should be tracked down and shot).

With a last-minute replacement of Alan Keyes as Obama's Republican opponent, Obama was able to set an all-time record in an Illinois Senate election, winning with a 43 percent margin.

And that's how Obama became a senator four years after losing a congressional race to Bobby Rush. (In a disastrous turn of events, Rush was not divorced.)

Axelrod destroyed the only two men who stood between Obama and the Senate with illicitly obtained, lurid allegations from their pasts.

In 2007, long after Obama was safely ensconced in the U.S. Senate, The New York Times reported: "The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece (on Hull's sealed divorce records) later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had 'worked aggressively behind the scenes' to push the story."

Some had suggested, the Times article continued, that Axelrod had "an even more significant role -- that he leaked the initial story."

This time, Obama's little helpers have not only thrown a bomb into the Republican primary, but are hoping to destroy the man who deprives the Democrats of their only argument in 2012: If you oppose Obama, you must be a racist.

Ann Coulter is Legal Affairs Correspondent for HUMAN EVENTS and author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Slander, Treason, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), Godless, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and their Assault on America, and the forthcoming Demonic: How The Liberal Mob Is Endangering America.



November 9--  At the American Legion Post located at 100 Rucker Lane in Statesboro this afternoon, Congressman John Barrow held a press conference announcing that the Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the opening of a Veterans Outreach Clinic in Statesboro.

“After years of working with local veterans to advocate for the approval of a Veterans Outreach Clinic in Statesboro, I am happy to report that the Department of Veterans Affairs has approved,” Barrow said.  “As the population in Statesboro continues to grow, the need for a local VA clinic grows even more urgent.”

In response to Congressman Barrow’s repeated efforts to open a clinic in Statesboro, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the opening of the Statesboro Outreach Clinic in a September 2nd letter to Barrow.  In addition, the letter gave a timeline of 12-18 months before the clinic opens and affirmatively stated that the Statesboro Outreach Clinic will offer on-site primary care and mental health services.  Also from the letter:

 “Veterans Integrated Service Network 7 has moved forward with plans to initiate a proposal for an outreach clinic.  On August 4, the Deputy Under Secretary for Health Operations and Management approved the request submitted by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center (VAMC) to establish an outreach clinic in Statesboro, Georgia.


“The Statesboro Outreach Clinic will offer on-site primary care and mental health services. The Clinic also will provide patient aligned care teams, rural health, and telehealth initiatives to include specialty and acute mental health services.  The clinic’s hours of operation will be from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., 4 days a week.  The goal is to open the clinic within the next 12-18 months.”

“It is key for members of Congress to get out into the community, walk the ground veterans walk, see what veterans and our wounded warriors see, and understand from a boots-on-the-ground perspective what warriors and veterans experience every day,” said Jim Lorraine, Executive Director of the Augusta Warrior Project.  “I applaud all our representatives who take the time to become educated on veterans issues and then take action to improve the system.”

The Statesboro Clinic will formally be part of the Charlie Norwood VMAC in Augusta, GA.  The physical location of the clinic is yet to be announced.


November 9, 2011-  The State Board of Education reconvened its July 26, 2011, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Board of Education (BOE) Hearing today, Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:30pm.  

Action was taken as a final recommendation to the Governor per Senate Bill 79.  The Hearing was postponed July 26, 2011, pending the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) final report on the APS BOE, which was released October 31, 2011.

Below is a state read by Mrs. Wanda Barrs, Chair of the State Board of Education.  This recommendation was accepted by the State Board of Education unanimously.

Pursuant to Senate Bill 79 relating to recommendations for potential suspension of local boards of education for governance related issues the Georgia State Board of Education has reviewed the findings of SACS Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. Whereas the SACS has moved APS from Probation Status to Accreditation with Advisement status, the state board does not recommend to the Governor that the Atlanta Public School Board of Education be removed enmasse.  It is agreed that the Atlanta Public School Board of Education and Superintendent Erroll Davis will comply with the outlined requirements for complete accreditation restoration.

November 9--  Toombs County commissioners are expected to approve a 2012 budget of just over $9 million at their December meeting.  That's about $157,000 less than this year, according to county officials.

County manager Doug Eaves says the commission has decided to dip into the county's rainy day fund to meet some additional expenses next year including a pay raise for county employees.

"We've got a three percent increase for all of our employees.  The second thing we had to account for next year is funding of federal, state and county elections," Eaves reports.  "What we're able to do because of the good work of the commissioners for the last couple of years is build a stable fund balance so in the coming year we've reduced the amount we're contributing to our contigency funds to pay these additonal costs," Eaves said.

Eaves estimates county reserves of $700,000 will be reduced to about $200,000 next year.  He says the good news is the longtime practice of year-end borrowing to cover operating costs should not be needed.

"We don't have to borrow money every year.  We have our cash flow under control and a more stable financial situation means we don't have to have that emergency fund at the level it had been in the past," Eaves notes. 

The county will hold a publc hearing on the budget Thursday, November 17th at four p.m. at the courthouse in Lyons.

Meanwhile, the Commission has okayed a $19,000 contract with a Hall County firm to study tax equity in Toombs County.  Eaves says Sutton Consulting will look at the cost of service delivery in the incorporated and unincorporated parts of the county.  Eaves says the goal is to make sure all taxpayers are on equal footing in terms of taxes paid and services delivered.

November 8-- Enrollment has gone down in the Montgomery County school system.

Superintendent Randy Rodgers told the school board's November meeting that enrollment is down by 69 students and that translates to a loss of $252,128 in state funding.

He also reports the school system's operating budget is running a deficit.  The Superintendent says revenues to date are $1.9 million compared to $2.7 million in expenditures.

The board took action to rent the former school board office building to Concerted Services for $985 a month and an estimated savings in utility costs of $24,000 a year.

It also accepted a revised proposal from the Georgia School Board Association to assist with community involvement in strategic planning .  The association's quote of $29,500 was reduced to $2,000 plus staff expenses after scaling back its scope of work in negotiations with Superintendent Rodgers.

November 8– - U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have joined 58 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, objecting to the recent news that nearly $13 million in bonus pay was approved for 10 executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The letter calls the bonuses “wildly imprudent” and urges the housing finance agency to make “changes to the executive compensation policy to more accurately reflect the mission of the agency and the fiscal reality facing the GSEs and the federal government.” Secretary Geithner was included in the letter because of the role the Treasury Department plays in overseeing taxpayer dollars that were used to bail out Fannie and Freddie.

The letter was spearheaded by Senators Begich, D-Alaska, and Thune, R-S.D., and has received bipartisan support from 25 Democratic and 35 Republican Senators in total.

 The full text of the senators’ letter is included below.

November 4, 2011

Mr. Edward DeMarco, Acting Director

Federal Housing Finance Agency

1700 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20552

Dear Mr. DeMarco:

On November 1, 2011, it was reported that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) approved $12.79 million in bonus pay for ten executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs). At a time when these entities have received nearly $141 billion in taxpayer-provided bailout funding, such excessive compensation seems wildly imprudent. Moreover, the full cost of conservatorship remains a moving target.

We are sincerely concerned about the message this sends to millions of American families when the unemployment rate stands at 9.0% and the housing market remains very weak. As American families are tightening their belts in light of the struggling economy, the federal government must take steps to ensure that the conservatorship is receiving proper oversight. The wasteful nature of these bonuses, however, is a step in the wrong direction.

The idea that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which rely on taxpayer funding to stay afloat, must offer excessive bonuses to its executives to attract effective management strains credulity. We therefore urge you to make substantial changes to the executive compensation policies to more accurately reflect the public mission of your agency and the fiscal reality facing the GSEs and the federal government. We also request an update regarding your actions to reform compensation package protocol and what steps have been taken to address the concerns raised by the FHFA Inspector General in the March, 2011 report “Evaluation of Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Oversight of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Executive Compensation Programs.”


November 8--  The state of Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of October totaled $1.3 billion, an increase of $67 million or 5.4 percent compared to October 2010, Gov. Nathan Deal reported today. Through four months of FY2012, net revenue collections totaled $5.36 billion, an increase of $339 million or 6.8 percent over the prior year through October.

“The positive trend of year-over-year growth continued for a 16th consecutive month in October as total net revenues remained relatively strong,” said Deal. “However, the more recent trend of softening revenues since August only reaffirms our stance of cautious optimism with respect to the overall economic outlook for the state.”

The following changes within the various tax categories led to the overall net revenue increase in October:
Individual Income Tax: Individual income tax collections for October totaled $700 million, up from $637.5 million in October 2010, an increase of $62.5 million or 9.8 percent.

The following notable components within individual income tax account for the increase:
•      Individual income tax return payments were up $10.5 million or 19.9 percent
•      Individual withholding payments were up $52.5 million or 8 percent
•      Individual income tax refunds issued increased $10.5 million or 12.1 percent
•      All other individual tax categories (including estimated payments) combined for a $10 million increase

Sales and Use Tax: Net sales and use tax collections for October totaled $437 million, up from $427 million in October 2010, for an increase of $10 million or 2.3 percent. The monthly sales tax distribution to local governments totaled $388 million, which was an increase of $27 million or 7.5 percent over last October.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate income tax collections for October declined $4.25 million or 78.5 percent, marking the third consecutive year in which corporate refund activity outstripped corporate tax collections. Specifically, net corporate collections were $-9.7 million compared to $-5.4 million in FY2011.

The following notable components within corporate income tax make up the decrease:
•      Corporate tax refunds issued were up $12 million or 47.9 percent

•      Corporate Estimated Tax payments were up $5.1 million or 55 percent
•      All other Corporate Tax categories combined for an increase of $2.65 million or 25.3 percent

November 7--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville discusses the state's budget in this edition of "News From the Senate."



Amid the good news of a highly successful bond issue last week, the State of Georgia faces budgetary challenges nearing $1 billion but beyond that are unknowns affecting the state that may be impossible to plan for.


This column noted previously that the state was poised to issue bonds during a period of historic lows in interest rates enhanced by the state's retention of its AAA bond rating.  The sale of $247 million in general obligation bonds last week and the refinancing of $153.8 million in outstanding debt were sold at historically low rates. 


In the General Obligation bonds sold, 5 year bonds brought record lows of 0.85% and 20 year bonds were sold at a low 3.13 %.  The refinanced debt was sold at 2.34% generating some $13.3 million in savings for the state.


Not to beat a dead or even a live horse, the point brought out in this column recently about this being an opportune time for the state to invest in infrastructure due to low borrowing costs and cheap construction costs seems to be borne out by the bond interest rates just received.


The bond underwriters noted Georgia's AAA rating was due to the state's "history of making difficult decisions, mainly through expenditure reductions, to restore fiscal balance and strong oversight" and the rebuilding of the states Revenue Shortfall Reserve.


The underwriters praise Georgia's governmental framework and ability to respond to contingencies giving the state its highest rating in those areas.  Management of the states' finances receives a "strong" rating, again the highest rating by agencies.



For the last two weeks, this column has outlined the challenges faced by the state in FY012 even as moderate growth has returned to revenue collections. These challenges, adjusted for updates are as follows:


Medicaid/PeachCare Growth                                   $130 million

State Health Benefit Plan Shortfall (DCH)                 $55.1 million

Previously "shorted" Medicaid funds                         $77.0 million

CMO Payment shift (DCH)                                      $82.1 million

FMAP State Match Increase (DCH)                        $47.1 million

Retirement Plans Contributions (ERS, TRS, PSES)   $170 million

Behavioral Health/DOJ Settlement                            $65.5 million

Ad Valorem Tax elimination step and increase

in Senior Income Tax exclusion step                          $60.0 million

Growth for Regents and Technical Colleges               $140 million

K-12 Enrollment Growth (Est.)                                 $90 million


But beyond these challenges are unknowns for the state that have possible fiscal impact. The state recently paid out $21 million in interest on the $700 million debt due by the state to the federal Unemployment Benefit Trust Fund.   While payments must begin through the system to repay the debt, the interest payments will probably be a state obligation.


Possible tax reform initiatives could net a decrease in state revenues through design or by error.  For example, support for removal of the sales tax on energy in manufacturing is supported in all quarters but could go from costing $30 million in FY2013 to $78 million in FY 2014 if not offset by some revenue source.



Federal debt pressures driving budget cuts will have effects on the state starting with the $11 billion that is included in the state total funds budget of $34 billion.  Cuts in Medicaid funding along with funding for departments heavily dependent on federal funds like DNR/EPD, DPS, Education, Public Health and Human Services would be seriously impaired with significant federal budget cuts.


A recent column here pointed out some $90 billion in federal funds that come to Georgia each year through transfer payments, contracts and federal employees' payrolls.   

Some of these sources include:


               Social Security Payments                                         $15 billion

               Medicare Provider Payments                                   $10 billion

               Federal Military & Civilian Retirement                     $3.8 billion

               Federal Procurement Contracts                               $11.2 billion

               Military Salaries                                                       $8.8 billion

               Civilian Salaries                                                       $4.8 billion

               Research Grants (probably incomplete)                   $1.2 billion


So the effects of unknown federal policies on budget cuts could have effects on Georgia's economy and on state revenues, but remain unknown as we close out 2011.


Additionally, the bond underwriters noted that Georgia economic recovery plans might be overly optimistic. 

November 6--  A Saturday night fire killed a man in Lyons.

Toombs County Coroner Ron Hall identifies the victim as 70-year-old Cecil Kersey of 144 Coleman Drive.  He was the only occupant of the brick home which is located off Highway 178 not far from the Oxford Distribution Center, according to the coroner.

Toombs County 911 dispatched the Lyons Fire Department to the fire just after six p.m.  Chief Darel Corley says the State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

"it's still under investigation.  We won't have anything till about Monday or Tuesday.  The house was on fire when we got there and the guy didn't make it out," he said.

The coroner says Mr. Kersey had one of his legs amputated a few years ago.  Chief Corley says he used a motorized wheelchair to get around and was found on the floor of his front room.  The coroner says he suspects smoke inhalation was the cause of death and that an autopsy will be done.

November 3-- As part of the Teachers Rewards Program Wal-Mart representatives, Wade Scott and Melinda Greene, pleasantly surprised teachers at Montgomery County Elementary School with great gifts including $1000 for the school.  Everyone received a cupcake and juice as well as school supplies.  Names were drawn for 10 teachers who received $100 gift cards each.

Faces lit up when the winners were called to come forward to get their prize. One teacher said, “Thank the Lord!” This was a wonderful way to help our local school.


Left to Right:  Gail McArthur, Debbie Morris, Jennifer McNeal, Bonnie Peery, Teresa Manning, Debra Gay, Susie Howard and Donna Brice

November 4--  A ribbon cutting for the new home of Premier Heating and Air at 1400 East First Street in Vidalia was held Friday morning.  Owner Nathan Slater (behind the bow) was joined by friends and employees for the ceremony.

November 4--  The people who will tell the public what's going on in the event of a major emergency at the Southern Company's nuclear power plant south of Vidalia ran a mock emergency drill this week in Vidalia.

{mosimage}One of the company's spokespersons, Carol Boatwright, says the drill simulated the failure of equipment at Plant Hatch.  Exercise players tried to find out what caused it and to stop any associated radiation which occurred.

"We have a lot of people here who are serving as 'mock media' to help us work our spokespersons and give them a taste of what real life would be like.  We have people here to explain what has happened at the plant and we've brought in state and county agencies who would help us respond to an event at the plant," Boatwright said.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on hand to observe the three-hour exercise Wednesday morning at the emergency operations center on Highway 292 West near Vidalia High School.

November 3--  Governor Nathan Deal publicly acknowledged the award of $500,000 OneGeorgia EDGE Grant funds to the Toombs County Development Authority for the US Pet Nutrition, LLC project as part of the Celebrating Rural Georgia day in Tifton.

The Toombs County Development Authority formally received $500,000 EDGE grant funds to assist with the construction of a wastewater pre-treatment facility that will serve US Pet Nutrition, LLC.  The site is located in the Toombs Corporate Center, US Highway 1, North of Lyons.  US Pet Nutrition, LLC produces high-end pet food.  The Toombs County facility will employ 150 persons with a $25 million investment.


Pictured left to right are:  Ryan Waldrep - Project Manager - Existing Industry and Regional Recruitment, Georgia Department of Economic Development;  Buddy West – Chair, Board of Commissioners of Toombs County;  Willis NeSmith – Member, Lyons City Council; Rick Hartley - City Manager, City of Lyons;  Governor Nathan Deal; Bill Perez - General Manager, US Pet Nutrition, LLC;  Bill Mitchell - Executive Director, Toombs County Development Authority; B.J. Davis - Chair, Toombs County Development Authority


November 3--  Third grade students at Montgomery County Elementary School are learning about different careers and in October got a visit from Wildlife Ranger Danielle O'Conner.

{mosimage}She described her job duties to our students and taught them about respecting wildlife and wildlife safety. The students were excited to see the baby alligator that she brought with her. They were thrilled to see one up close and some took the opportunity of touching the "gator".

{mosimage}Mrs. O'Conner demonstrated how to touch it with the snout being secured. She also warned that she was specially trained to handle an alligator and that no one without the training should be close enough to be able to touch an alligator in the wild. The boys and girls were very attentive and had lots of questions afterwards. Thank you, Mrs. O'Conner for your time and presentation.


November 3--  Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) plans to introduce the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act, requiring mandatory drug testing for social service applicants.

If passed, this landmark legislation would require welfare recipients to undergo screening for illegal drugs to determine welfare eligibility. The bill provisions outline that if an applicant fails to comply with state-mandated drug testing or produces a positive result, the applicant will be disqualified from receiving state benefits for a specified period of time which will be determined by the Georgia Department of Human Services.

 “Passing this bill is a step in the right direction for our hardworking citizens, and will curb the entitlement mentality that has become so pervasive in our society,” said Senator Albers. “Georgians should no longer have to foot the heavy burden of paying for those with drug addictions. Earlier this year, similar welfare-related drug screening was passed in Florida and Missouri, and has set a new precedent for social accountability and responsibility.”

According to the bill, all pre-screening measures will remain confidential and exempt from becoming public record unless necessary for the administration of these provisions or otherwise mandated by federal or state law.

 “The Social Responsibility and Accountability Act touts the virtues of individual responsibility and accountability, and relieves the taxpayer from undue tax burdens,” said Senator Albers. “The proposed legislation would serve to reward law-obeying citizens who need assistance the most.”

Sen. John Albers, (R-Roswell) along with Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) will hold a press conference Tuesday, November 15 to discuss welfare-based reforms. The press conference will be held in the Senate Press Conference Room in the Coverdell Legislative Building at 8:30 a.m.


November 2--  Money realized as a result of video machine gambling raids in March of 2010 is being distributed to law enforcement departments in Toombs County, Vidalia and Lyons by Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman.

The departments assisted the DA in raids on 20 convenience stores in Toombs County.  Nine raids were also made in Emanuel County.

Altman estimates the Toombs raids grossed nearly $2 million with a one-third commission paid to an Atlanta law firm which assisted in the prosecution.  Tuesday he reported he plans to disburse $250,000 to the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force, $175,000 to the Vidalia Police Department, a yet-to-be determined amount to the Lyons Police Department and $75,691 for the purchase of three trucks by the Toombs County Sheriff's Office. (Photo courtesy Kathy Bradford)

{mosimage}"It means a lot," says Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, "It doesn't come out of my budget and these trucks were certainly needed.  Our investigators vehicles had over 200,000 miles and we were down to almost walking, so it came at a very good time." The District Attorney (left) presented a check to Sheriff Kight to pay for the new trucks which arrived at the Toombs County Sheriff's Office. 

The Vidalia Police Department plans to buy a patrol car and training simulators for driving and firearms with its allocation.

Altman says his office and other agencies will share over $300,000 and other funds which are still tied up in the courts.

"Every bit of the money we are giving back to law enforcement came from illegal activity.  We had people who were benefitting greatly from illegal activity and one of the best ways for the public to recoup some of the money is by RICO action," Altman says.



November 2--  The City of Vidalia is appealing for your help.  Click to vote.

Hello Everyone!!!

Will you please help Vidalia?   We have been given another chance to win the Pepsi grant only this time we are trying for a new DARE car AND the Community Pond which all Toombs County Schools can utilize!  Students will be able to visit the classroom size pavilion to study wildlife and horticulture.

Please help us win by voting for us every single day in November. You can text your vote and Pepsi will not charge anything to your phone...promise!  This is a popularity contest and only the top 10 with the most votes will be awarded the grants.

DARE car -send text message 109713 to contact number 73774 also vote online at
Community Pond - send text message 109890 to contact number 73774 
and also vote online at

Thanks in advance for your support!

Carol Kennedy, Systems Analyst, City of Vidalia, 912.537.7661


November 2--  An effort is underway in Montgomery County to hold a recall election for school board chairwoman Deloris James.

According to a release quoting Rudy Nanney of Trotter's Lane in Montgomery County, a group of citizens in the Altston-Higgston School Board District is organizing a recall application petition.  If they can get the signatures of at least a hundred voters who voted in the 2008 election which elected James, she will have the right to request that a superior court judge determine if there is sufficient cause to proceed with the recall.

According to Nanney, the Montgomery County school system has been placed on probation under James' leadership and "not only continues to harm the education of our children, but be a statewide embarassment for all citizens of Montgomery County."

He continues, "There is no better message to send to the Board of Education than to remove the person that has led them in this desecration of our school system." 

In response to the recall news, Mrs. James says "It's a fact probation has occurred while I've been board chair.  I am shocked because I had no idea this was coming, however, I am dedicated to doing what I think is in the best interest of students of Montgomery County and I will continue to do that as long as I'm in office.  With all due respect to Mr. Nanney, he can proceed any way he likes to and I'll face each day as it comes."

The news release asks any registered voter in the Mrs. James' district who wishes to sign the petition to call Nanney at 537-3654 or former Montgmery County High School principal Luke Smith at 538-8393.

The group released the following information:


A group of citizens in the Alston - Higgston District have begun a recall application petition to recall School Board Chairperson Deloris James. The group, headed by Rudy Nanney, seeks to get approval of a recall application in order to actually get a recall petition drive underway.

When asked why the group wanted to recall James, Nanney gave the following statement: "In January of this year three new school board members took office. Deloris James was elected as Chairwoman of the Board of Education. Under her guidance the BOE has managed to get the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to place our school system on probation. She accomplished this feat in less than eight months. The Montgomery County Board of Education was cited for nine violations. This is three more than the Atlanta Public Schools received. Probation is the last step before accreditation is withdrawn. Should accreditation be withdrawn, students graduating from Montgomery County High School will not be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship and will have a very difficult, if not impossible, time of getting into post-secondary education. Loss of accreditation will also hurt the school system when applying for grants."

"The BOE, lead by Mrs. James, has so inflamed the passions of many citizens in our county that a group has been formed to try and reason with the BOE in order to restore some degree of order in our school system. They have had little, if any, success."

"The BOE has also been called to Atlanta to appear before the State Board of Education to explain their improper behavior. Mrs. James and the other BOE members promised to be good this time and really abide by the Code of Ethics that they have now twice sworn to follow. The state BOE could remove some or all of the Montgomery County BOE in the spring of 2012. However, this could well occur after personnel decisions have been made for the 2012-2013 school year, if it occurs at all."

"Under Mrs. James leadership our BOE not only continues to harm the education of our children, but be a statewide embarrassment for all citizens of Montgomery County. The voters of Montgomery County put all of these board members in power and if our children are to be protected, then the voters must remove some or all of the Board members before they do farther damage to our school system. There is no better message to send to the BOE than to remove the person that has lead them in this desecration of our school system. All that it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. If we don't remove them from office, then we will get the government that we deserve!"

The application for a recall requires the signatures of at least 100 voters that were registered in the Higgston - Alston District in November 2008. If the application is successful, the actual recall petition will require the signatures of at least 300 currently registered voters in the Higgston - Alston District. Any registered voter wishing to sign the recall petition application for Deloris James should call 537 - 3654 or 538 - 8393.


November 1--  Georgia continues its quest for international companies willing to bring new jobs to the state.

The state's Deputy Commissioner for Global Commerce made a visit to Vidalia and told members of the Leadership Toombs-Montgomery class she's seeing reasons for cautious optimism.

"Our economic forecasters are telling us to be conservative.  This is not going to be a quick sprint out of this, but things are looking positive.  From my perspective of seeing companies which are interested in expanding or locating in Georgia, I am seeing that to be true," Gretchen Corbin said after a luncheon meeting with the class last Thursday at the Vidalia Community Center.

Corbin told the class there are as many at 57,000 jobs in the pipeline for Georgia and investments totalling more than $15 billion.

"We're seeing lots of new projects coming into Georgia.  In the last couple of weeks, Governor Deal was in Asia and announced 300 new jobs from a company in China.  What we are seeing is that domestic and overseas companies have been holding back and they are now ready to go and they are looking to expand new lines which will mean new jobs and investments for Georgia," she said.