January 2-- As the new year starts, Toombs County is in better financial shape than its been in the past, however, County Commission Chairman Buddy West admits 2011 was a challenge. "It's been a challenge on the economic side, but we've continued to look at expenses and revenue and make adjustments as it comes through," he says.
West is starting his fourth year in office and believes conversion to a county manager form of government has helped the county get its financial house in order.
"The first year we had to borrow money to make year's end budget. Now we're in a lot better financial shape. We have some money in a reserve account now and I feel like we're better off and the numbers show we are," he reports.
As local governments continue to look for ways to pay the bills, West expects some hard nose bargaining when the county and its cities sit down to devise a formula for dividing up local sales tax revenue for the next ten years starting in 2013.
"We just want to get our fair share as much as the cities of Lyons and Vidalia want to get their fair shares. This is all about tax equity and we're looking at doing the fair thing for all the citizens of Toombs County," West says.
Both the county and Vidalia have hired consultants to give them advice on how to approach the sales tax negotiations which could end up in court if all parties can't agree.
On July 31, voters will be asked to approve a one percent sales tax for road improvements in the county and the region. "This is a mechanism which was handed down to us (by new state law) that we're using to have better road systems in our area. It serves a good economic purpose for roadways and will help fund further widening of U.S. One South if it's implemented," the chairman notes.
In an end of year interview, Chairman West provided a list of things he's most proud of accomplishing in 2011.
1. Extended the one mil tax assessment for the Toombs County Development Authority for five years.
2. Reapportioned the county's commission districts.
3. Updated various ordinances like Beer and Wine, Mobile Homes, etc.
4. increased funding for recreation to Vidalia, Lyons and Toombs Rec by $2,000 or 6% for 2012.
5. General fund balance in November is $2,051,244 with $2 million invested in a Certificate of Deposit.
6. Budget for 2012 Maintenance and Operations Budget is $9,023,650, a 1.82% decrease from 2011 and includes a 3% pay raise for employees.
7. Special Revenue Budget is set at $4,173,955, a 2.3% decrease from 2011.
8. We continue to look a expenditures. Recently discovered the county was paying for 39 street lights at $893 per month. This is a city function and we gave Lyons and Vidalia eight months notice to prepare.
9. There has been no millage increase in property taxes and we're not borrowing money to operate county government.
Detention Center and Jail
1. Purchased new E911 equipment and furnishings for $122,621.00.
2. Re-roofed jail for $148,735.00.
3. Re-lamped outside perimeter of jail and detention center.
4. Improved lighting in large courtroom.
1. Landfill fund as of November 30 is $1,320,623.
2. Opened three new cells under budget.
3. Purchased new compactor to replace 1996 and 1998 models.
4. Puchased new bulldozer for $208,000.
1. Served as fiscal agent for widening of Bulldog Road.
2. Resurfaced two miles of Lyons-Center Road and contracted to resurface an additional two miles.
3. Contracted for four miles of Old Normantown Road.
4. Restripped 48 miles of county roads using a Federal Highway Safety Grant.
5. Purchased new limbcutter for $97,200.00.
1. Swapped buildings with Lyons and now we have a building for elections and registration and renovated building for $16,006.00.
2. County contracted with Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus to do elections.