Digest increases slightly; millage hike unlikely
Jones County Commissioners listened to the requests of department heads last week after setting a tentative millage rate.
The tentative tax rate was set at 17.649 for the incorporated area of the county, which includes the City of Gray, and 16.197 for the remaining unincorporated area. The rate is the same as the 2017 millage rate.
Board Chairman Chris Weidner called the Aug. 14 meeting to order and turned the meeting over to County Administrator Jason Rizner.
The administrator explained that the tax rate could be reduced by the Board of Commissioners before it was permanently set, but it could not be raised above the tentative rate.
Rizner said the tax digest did have a small increase, which he calculated to be 1.11 percent. He said that was under the 3 percent increase that required three public hearings.
The motion to adopt the tentative rate was unanimous.
The called meeting to set the tentative rate was adjourned, and a budget workshop began with 10 department heads scheduled to talk to the board about their proposed capital projects.
The administrator noted that he was researching options for the financing of an expansion of the Jones County Law Enforcement Center that had been requested by Sheriff Butch Reece.
He said one option could be a 20-year, low interest loan, but he was continuing the search.
Human Resource Director Shannon Wagner was the first to address the board. She asked for a full-time deputy at the Government Center. She cited the need because of the public defender and district attorney offices in the building, in addition to the tax commissioner’s office that handles all of the county’s tax collections.
Commissioner Jonathan Pitts suggested the possibility of using an off-duty officer or a security guard instead of a certified officer. Wagner said she preferred an officer that was POST certified.
Weidner said he would speak to the sheriff to find out options, but he thought having a deputy at the Government Center was a good idea.
Wagner also asked for funds to purchase GPS tracking systems for all 96 of the county’s vehicles. She said cost to purchase the devices was $11,000, and she said it would help with productivity and efficiency for county employees.
Commissioner Sam Kitchens agreed that the GPS systems would solve a lot of issues.
Water Superintendent Jeff Pehlke spoke to board members about a maintenance agreement needed for lift stations in River North and bar screens. He said a lot of time was spent unclogging pumps, and the bar screen could prevent the clogs.
Pehlke also asked to replace the department’s old pickup trucks and said a mini excavator would help to reduce the footprint of repairs.
Chief Appraiser Tony George started with a presentation about the work of the tax assessors that included an $11 million increase to the county’s tax digest. He also mentioned that last year was the first time in 20 years the county’s tax digest was delivered to Atlanta on time.
George said the increase in the tax digest equated to $400,000 in new revenue.
“The staff works hard, but they are not valuing people out of their homes,” he said.
The appraiser noted that tax appeals were also down this year.
George asked for two new SUVs for his department.
Brennan Jackson, county extension coordinator and agent for Jones County, asked for additional funds to send more delegates to 4-H conferences, and Jones County Superior Court Clerk Bart Jackson reminded board members of a recommendation by the Grand Jury of an increase in pay for traverse jurors from $25 to $35 a day.
The clerk also asked for $7,800 for software needed to put the county’s real estate index on the statewide index.
Animal Services Manager John Jackson requested a backup generator for the well at the new building in order to have water when the electricity was out. He also asked for surveillance cameras for the building.
Building Maintenance Director Bobby Bonner had a list of improvements needed at county buildings, and he also asked for a used bucket truck.
Elections superintendent Marion Hatton asked the board to replace batteries for the county’s voting equipment. She said the five-year batteries were purchased in 2012 and were no longer holding a charge.
Zoning Officer Tim Pitrowski told commissioners that his department needed a new pickup to replace the 16-year-old vehicle currently in use, and he also asked for new building permit software to replace a 2004 program.
Public Works Director John Lowe asked for soil stabilizer that would save the county money on gravel and funds for roadside spraying. An additional request for the department included new time clocks for convenience centers.
Rizner spoke on behalf of several department heads that could not attend the meeting. He said $3,000 was needed for the safety program, and the Senior Center requested a sewing machine and funds for additional Meals on Wheels recipients.
Funds were also requested for the Morris Bank Recreational Complex, South Complex, Government Center gym, golf course and youth football league.
The next budget meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 21, preceding the next Board of Commissioners meeting.