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6-5-06 Reaction to Oconee Jail and Lease Purchase Debt

…… (Oconee) commissioners have committed to tearing down buildings, building a large jail and using borrowed money, ALL WITHOUT A VOTE OF THE CITIZENS.

 

Voters need to change all of these officials at the next opportunity.  They are spending money like Oconee had resources of Gwinnett County.  WE DON’T.  We have many other needs that rate higher priority than a BIG NEW PARK and a BIG NEW JAIL.

AVOC

 

May 31, 2006

 

Reaction to Oconee Jail and Lease Purchase Debt

 

By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

 

AVOC hopes citizens are waking up to the fact that our commissioners have committed to tearing down buildings, building a large jail and using borrowed money, ALL WITHOUT A VOTE OF THE CITIZENS.

 

Voters need to change all of these officials at the next opportunity.  They are spending money like Oconee had resources of Gwinnett County.  WE DON’T.  We have many other needs that rate higher priority than a BIG NEW PARK and a BIG NEW JAIL.

 

Borrowed money is being committed for long-terms in spite of other more pressing needs, i.e. widening of GA 53-Mars Hill Road Corridor and improving two lane country roads that are over taxed with the Fast Growth Policies of the current commissioners.

 

SEE:

 6-2-06 Oconee to hold “public hearing” on Jail Financing 6-5-06 at 6:00 PM at Courthouse

 


From an AVOC Reader

in Another NEGA County

 

31 May 2006

 

A New Jail will not Save Oconee Money!

 

If Oconee County citizens really care about their "future" as their name suggests, they wouldn't even build a jail-----I remember the excuse this county had for building a jail was "it cost the county $00,000 per year to house our prisoners out of the county"-----gosh, that would be a ridiculously small amount considering the amount it costs to operate the jail now-----to staff and operate the jail cost approx. $ million a year---housing them out of county was quite a bargain---wish we could go back to the $00,000 deal---the taxpayers were better off.


6-2-06 Oconee County to have “Public Hearing” on Jail Financing – Now $0.4 Million

 

Citizens for Oconee's Future, Inc.
P. O. Box 1301
Watkinsville, GA 30677

 

June 2, 2006

 

Public Hearing on Lease Purchase Jail Financing, 6:00 PM, 6/5/2006

 

By Charles Baugh, President

 

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the Lease Purchase method of financing the new jail as required by Georgia law.  Long after construction started, the BOC will now come up with a way to pay for the jail.  By two votes for local option sales taxes, Oconee voters approved spending about $M for the jail.  The Board has voted to spend $0.4M for a much larger jail to completely replace the existing jail.  At the last Commission meeting the Finance Director stated the cost will probably be "near $2M".  It appears the sky is the limit for a big jail in a little county of 28,000 people, with a very low crime rate in a state with a history of requiring counties to house state prisoners and pay a significant part of the cost.  We are building a big jail which will require county taxpayers to subsidize the state prison system and now the Board will compound the cost by using creative financing to do it.

 

By using lease purchase financing, the present Board will obligate future Boards and taxpayers to come up with the lease payments for years until the bonds are paid out. By using this creative financing the Board avoids having to go back to the voters for more money for the jail.  This enables the present Board to spend the local option sales tax for other projects such as projects to promote more development of the county. 

 

The plan is for the Board to meet the obligation for the public hearing on Monday night and then approve the financing at the regular meeting on Tuesday night.  That meeting is scheduled for 7:00 PM in the large court room on Tuesday 6/6.  Folks you need to pay attention to this.  Come to this hearing and ask questions.  Call or email the BOC members about this.  This type spending will tie up county resources for decades and keep the County promoting development in order to create more tax revenue to pay out the borrowing.  They will never catch up and we will sink under the same ugly strip shopping, traffic, poor schools and rising taxes that we see between here and Atlanta.    

 


5-31-06 COF- Oconee BOC spending is increasing at fast pace

 

Citizens for Oconee's Future, Inc.
P. O. Box 1301
Watkinsville, GA 30677

http://www.oconeesfuture.com/index.html

OconeesFuture@aol.com

 

May 30, 2006

 

Subject: Board of Commissioners Budget Hearing and Agenda Meeting Notes

 

By Charles Baugh, President  

 

Sadly only a hand full of citizens came to the Budget Hearing but I suppose those who did not waste their time were the smart ones as what was presented was virtually incomprehensible.  However there were 2 numbers that just jumped off the charts: a total "budget" of $3,261,408 representing a 9.13% increase over last year.  It did not take long to see that what was presented as the "budget" was in fact grossly incomplete when a citizen asked how much is included for the new jail financing.  The answer was nothing.  Excuse was because the Board had not decided how to finance it and they expect to cover it with the fund balance. 

 

Later one of the Commissioners pointed out that the cost of acquiring right of way for the Mars Hill road widening also was not in the "budget".  As it stands now the "budget" increase is 9.13% and apparently rising.  This comes on the heels of increases the past several years, during a period of historically low inflation.  You can guess what happens in the coming years as inflation picks up.  Whatever happened to conserving in the good years in preparation for the lean years?  To say this Board is spending like drunken sailors would be an affront to drunken sailors.  

 

The update on financing the new jail went about as expected.  The Board will finance the jail using a lease purchase arrangement which effectively avoids going back to the voters for approval and allows the Board to spend future revenues now plus the SPLOST revenues.  Jail costs keep going up.  The $M jail approved by the voters went to $M, then $0.3M and last night "near $2M".  The additional cost of maintaining and staffing this facility plus the cost of housing state prisoners will run into millions.  The state does not pay the full cost of housing state prisoners resulting in Oconee taxpayers subsidizing the state prison system.  A million here a  million there and........well, you know the rest.

  

The law requires the County to hold a public hearing on lease purchase financing.  That hearing will be held at 6:00 PM Monday June 5th.  The Board will then vote to approve it at the Tuesday June 6th meeting, the same meeting at which the "budget" will be approved.

 

There were several other spending items discussed and put on the consent agenda for the 6/6 Board meeting.  I won't go into those except to point out one as an example of what happens with projects requiring big spending.  A change order increase of $2,034 was approved for right of way road construction at the new park.  No mention of where the money comes from in the current budget, just a decision to spend it.  This won't be the last.

 

Folks, you need to pay attention to what this Board is doing.  You won't get much useful information from the 2 newspapers.  Go by the courthouse and look at the "budget" information.  Call or e mail the Commissioners.  The spending and the taxing are related.  Don't just complain about the tax bill, when the tax bill comes the damage is already done.


5-31-06 Republicans, Local Government, Open Meetings and Lease Purchase Debt

 

Jim Wooten AJ-C 5.30.06 … Message to the new Republican majority: These are your voters, people who are comfortable with government as an instrument of good (acquisition of parkland), but distrustful. They want open government, honest and accountable government and a government that writes laws and regulations carefully and precisely to check the possible arrogance, indifference and excess of future governing officials.

 

•This message is to those of us who occupy ground in rapidly developing areas:……When people are coming, and unavoidably they are in the area up to 100 miles from downtown Atlanta, we should spend — and borrow — every nickel we judiciously can, on crucial infrastructure.

 

We should do it honestly and forthrightly. It's nothing they've done yet, but the new Republican majority shows a propensity to hide the cost of government in fees and indirect costs. That is absolutely the wrong approach, unless it's a legitimate users' fee levied only on a service's beneficiaries.

 

They, and their predecessors in power, have embraced financing gimmicks — like pretending, for example, that 50-year "leases" on courthouses are not long-term debt requiring voter approval.

Every clever deceit undermines public trust in politicians and in government…..

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/wooten/stories/0530wooten.html

 

May 31, 2006                       Op-Ed

 

Saving parkland while restoring public trust a priority

 

By Jim Wooten

 

Sitting on the front porch of a guest house that was once Lillie Mae McCollum's sweet potato curing shed, two dozen Cobb County residents assembled in what has to be one of the prettiest spots left in metro Atlanta. Their goal is to save sights and feelings.

 

Certainly the sights—such as those from McCollum's porch — are vanishing from close-in Atlanta. And with the one goes the other, the opportunity to feel eternity on earth, the peace that comes when subsumed in nature's beauty.

 

McCollum's place is now owned by Paul and Betty Paulson, who purchased 27 of her original 40 acres on Casteel Road, first 10 acres and later more, starting in 1976. McCollum, who descended from an old Cobb family, moved to be near her son on the Tallapoosa River in Haralson County. She died two years ago at age 94.

 

It is a perfect, but coincidental, setting for the purpose of the the Paulsons' gathering: to organize an effort to persuade the Cobb County Commission and later voters to approve a $0 million bond referendum to purchase parkland. While Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens and perhaps a majority of the commissioners are favorably disposed, they're not likely to proceed without a public push.

 

There are many lessons here for citizens and politicians — and especially for the new Republican majority under the Gold Dome. They are these:

 

Politicians, and the two dozen parks supporters, are wary. Why? Laptops. The Cobb school board broke trust with voters. Whether intentionally or just erroneously, the board opted to spend $4 million from a 2003 sales tax initiative for 7,000 teachers and 55,000 students, without fairly informing voters.

 

Clear from the discussions among park supporters, who nitpick words with the caution of lawyers drafting a prenuptial agreement, is that they sense something that's pervasive and real: Government has frittered away public trust. The troupe, therefore, looks painstakingly for language that will leave no room for betrayal — either next year or next century.

 

Message to the new Republican majority: These are your voters, people who are comfortable with government as an instrument of good (acquisition of parkland), but distrustful. They want open government, honest and accountable government and a government that writes laws and regulations carefully and precisely to check the possible arrogance, indifference and excess of future governing officials.

 

•This message is to those of us who occupy ground in rapidly developing areas: While fiscal conservatives are conscious of the dollar and are leery of debt, times and situations sometimes compel them to borrow and spend. We could have cured gridlock had we bought right-of-way for transportation corridors before people moved in. When people are coming, and unavoidably they are in the area up to 100 miles from downtown Atlanta, we should spend — and borrow — every nickel we judiciously can, on crucial infrastructure.

 

We should do it honestly and forthrightly. It's nothing they've done yet, but the new Republican majority shows a propensity to hide the cost of government in fees and indirect costs. That is absolutely the wrong approach, unless it's a legitimate users' fee levied only on a service's beneficiaries.

 

They, and their predecessors in power, have embraced financing gimmicks — like pretending, for example, that 50-year "leases" on courthouses are not long-term debt requiring voter approval.

Every clever deceit undermines public trust in politicians and in government.

 

What Cobb parks supporters are proposing is government the way it should be done: At a crucial time — when the county is developing so rapidly that the next generation will not affordably have the option of acquiring land —government informs, and asks permission to borrow money.

 

That's what stewardship and the state constitution obligate. Propose as can be justified. And get permission. The way they used to do it before elected officials got too clever -— and decided they had to trick us because they knew better how to pick and choose, and how to spend our money.

 

The Cobb of Lillie Mae McCollum, like her sweet potato curing shed, is passing the way of development. Buy and preserve now for the generations to come. But approach us honestly: propose, explain and ask permission. Voters will make the right decision.

•Jim Wooten is the associate editorial page editor.


Citizens for Oconee's Future, Inc.
P. O. Box 1301
Watkinsville, GA 30677

May 29, 2006

 

Board of Commissioners Agenda Meeting and Budget Hearing 6:30 5/30/06

 

By Charles Baugh, President 

 

Following is the text of the BOC meeting agenda.  This meeting includes a Budget hearing that begins at 6:30 with the regular Agenda meeting following at 7:00. 

 

Another important item in addition to the Budget Hearing is a discussion of the jail financing.  Some may remember that at a prior meeting the Board directed the Finance Officer to consider financing options and report to the Board at a later meeting.  Maybe this is the report.  I would be very surprised if he comes in with anything but a lease purchase proposal since the County began legal advertising seeking lease purchase proposals immediately after the prior meeting. 

 

The $ million approved by the voters for a jail has already turned into a $0.5 million jail.  Will be interesting to see what it will cost after the financing is arranged. 

 

By the way isn't it interesting to see how easily this Board spends millions.  They began construction without having the financing worked out.  Oh not to worry spend a million here and a million there, we are a rich county and we will just approve some more subdivisions and a few more strip shopping malls to generate the tax revenue to pay for it. 

 

Is that how Gwinnett County became such a good place to live? 


6-1-06 Oconee’s “New Jail” already “saving money” – see budget proposal

 

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/060106/news_20060601046.shtml

 

June 1, 2006

 

Oconee spending more, but millage looks stable

Budget increase

 

By Merritt Melancon

 

….The county government's budget will increase from $9.7 million to $3.3 million, but the millage rate is projected to remain 8.23 mills …….

The largest increases in operating expenses are in the areas of law enforcement and public works.

The county's law enforcement budget is increasing by $11,000, which will pay for two more sheriff's deputies and three more jailers within the sheriff's department.

The county's public works budget will increase by $46,000 to help pay for two new staff positions in the Oconee County Utility Department and to replace 2- and 3-inch water lines with 6- and 8-inch lines to improve water pressure to the fire hydrants and improve fire safety.

The almost $ million increase in the capital improvement budget will be used to install new ballfield lighting at the Bogart Sports Complex, road resurfacing and the county's communications infrastructure.


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