SUPERINTENDENT GETS 3% RAISE WHILE TEACHERS LACK SUPPLIES

September 21, 2018

The school board (BOE) voted Tuesday night 3-1, with Lewis Rice voting no, to give Superintendent Mike Newton a 3% raise.  Bobby Norris did not attend the meeting.  Shilling, Barton, and Lynch approved.

Newton currently makes more than $145,000 per year, plus a cushy expense account.  He also works as an online professor, and makes somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 a year doing that.  Does Newton do that extra work on the Jasper County taxpayer’s time?

Newton announced his resignation to be effective at the end of this school year-June 2019.  Bill Shilling, BOE Chair, made the motion acknowledging Newton’s 9 years at Jasper County Schools, and recommended the 3% increase in pay.  The 3% raise will insure Newton gets a higher pension when he retires.  Newton also was able to get the BOE to vote to extend his contract one month so he could “work with a newly hired superintendent.”  This will cost another $12,000 to $13,000 for that extra month.

While the BOE has enough money –after increasing our property taxes again—to give Newton a 3% raise and an extra month of pay, the teachers lack supplies.  Recently there was a “fill the window” campaign by the Chamber of Commerce to bring in school supplies that the classrooms lack. 

This year alone, the BOE raised property taxes another 7.08%.  This increase is reflected in your tax bill that is due now.  According to the 5 year history, the BOE has raised our School Tax each year for the last 5 years.

.                                 Year                            Tax Increase

                                    2014                                     1.27%

                                    2015                                      5.97%

                                    2016                                      2.73%

                                    2017                                      3.37%

                                    2018                                      7.08%

 

There have been ever increasing school taxes due to big, and many times, wasteful spending by the compliant BOE.  We see how little the BOE cares about spending taxpayer’s money wisely. First, they awarded a $2M contract to a sole “bidder” that was not required to put up a bid bond or even an actual bid, and now they have given a hefty pay raise to one of the highest paid government employees in Jasper County, if not the highest paid.

Folks in Jasper County over 65 years of age continue to pay high school taxes.  Why?  Mostly because the BOE cannot do without the income they so readily spend without a care in the world for the taxpayer that is working and sacrificing to pay that big bill every year.

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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PROMISES? OR SAY ANYTHING TO GET THE PLAT APPROVED?

September 15, 2018

Just because something said is not in the “official minutes”, does that mean it was not said?

The developer, John Snow, and the engineer of The Peninsula at Jackson Lake, said they had no problem doing two things during the zoning hearing on March 15, 2018.

  • One, they said they could move the platted “storage lot” and/or make sure it was not visible or accessible from Eagle Dr. They said this would not be a problem, that they just had to “show it somewhere” on the plat.

 

  • Two, they said they could move the platted exit of Ridgeline Dr. onto Eagle Dr. to the old hunting camp entrance. Again, Snow said they just had to “show it somewhere” on the map.  (Note the following video starts over again at 6:06)

 

So much for the developer’s word

Ridgeline Dr. has been cut into Eagle Dr. where it was originally proposed, not at the old hunting camp entrance.

The reason the people on Eagle Dr. are so concerned is because Eagle Dr. is a narrow road and it is in terrible shape now.  The county has not done any maintenance on the road in years.  With another exit onto Eagle Dr. from the new subdivision, there would be a significant increase in traffic into the Eagle Dr. neighborhood.

The developers have said that Ridgeline Dr. will be an emergency exit only and will have a manually locked gate. They also said they could move the road to the old hunting camp entrance.  From the minutes:

After the meeting, Sealy told some of the Eagle Dr. residents, “At least they agreed to move Ridgeline Dr.”  However, Ridgeline Dr. was not moved, and Sealy, Benton, and Jernigan now say it was not in the final motion, so what was actually said does not matter.

This issue is just another reason why a bond should never be accepted in lieu of actually fulfilling the requirements before a final plat is approved.  You never know what will or will not be done.  We have seen in the past, developers make promises that they don’t always keep.

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in County, Planning & Zoning | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

BOARD OF EDUCATION ACCEPTS “ESTIMATE” FOR $2+ MILLION SITEWORK—ONLY ONE “BIDDER” FOR PROJECT

September 11, 2018

The Board of Education (BOE) has failed in its fiduciary responsibilities by accepting an estimate from a sole bidder for over $2 million of sitework on the new stadium complex.

According to the Monticello News,Only one grading company, Russell Bennett Contracting, submitted a bid for the site work at a cost of $2,080,157. Perry Hyde, Maintenance Supervisor, noted that a few grading companies had inquired about the project but that only one actually submitted a bid for the work.  Board members present Bobby Norris, William Schilling, Lewis Rice and Shannon Barton seemed astounded by some of the bid figures.”

Who were the other companies that inquired about the project? Why was there only one bidder? 

When questions were sent to the School Superintendent, Mike Newton, he responded, “we followed state guidelines that require that we post the bid packages to the State Procurement site for 30 days.”  He confirmed that this is the only place the bid request packet was posted.  It was NOT advertised in the local paper or any paper in surrounding counties.

There were no “invitations to bid” sent out to insure that competitive bids were received.  The school board failed to even try to get competitive bids by re-advertising after getting only one bid, that was in fact, not a bid at all, but an estimate.

Grading, paving, erosion control, etc. are not “sole source” jobs, and only one “bid” should not have been accepted. 

The School Board might have expressed surprise at the cost, but did nothing to try to save money or get the best deal for the taxpayer.  They certainly were not looking out for the taxpayer or even doing their due diligence when they did not reject the  “estimate” or request the project be re-bid.

The Monticello News also reported that BOE member Lewis Rice did express concern that only one grading company had submitted a bid and that the board had employed that company before on a project where some issues had been raised.

By reading the $2,080,157.30 “estimate”, it is obvious that the “bidder” is not putting up a surety bond without increasing the bid cost, nor does it seem that the School Board is requiring one.  However, the bid packet specifically states, “This package requires a 5% bid bond and subsequent 100% Payment and Performance Bond.” Was there a bid bond and is there a performance bond?

There are also several stipulations in the estimate that would increase the bid, such as encountering rock and “paving and curbing will be billed on actual field measurements” as will erosion control.  Wouldn’t you think the estimates would be based on actual measurements in the first place?  Instead, this so-called bid, leaves it wide open to charge even more.

It is very disappointing to see the lack of concern by the BOE for the way ELOST money will be spent.  From 2018 to 2035 taxpayers will pay off $14,737,371 of bond debt for this project.  $4,837,371 of that will go to interest alone.  We can only hope the BOE looks up the meaning of fiduciary responsibility.

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in Bidding, Schools | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WORKMAN ATTACKS FELLOW COUNCIL MEMBERS THAT DISAGREE WITH HIS SERVICE DELIVERY “DOUBLE TAXATION” MANTRA

September 7, 2018

The Monticello City Council has met to discuss the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) on August 30 and again on September 6.  In each of the meetings, council members who brought up ideas or concerns contrary to Mayor Pro Tem Stone Workman’s double taxation mantra were immediately cut off and verbally attacked by Workman.

AUGUST 30TH MEETING

Mayor Brian Standifer was absent from the August 30 meeting, so Workman chaired the meeting.  The GMA (Georgia Municipal Assoc) had made recommendations to City Councils from their legal staff, and Workman said, “This is the opportunity to end double taxation.  Whatever the unincorporated area is getting and incorporated areas are not getting equals double taxation.”  He ended with, “It shouldn’t cost more to live in City.  This is the way to handle that.” 

He then read from his phone about his “research”, which included asking the County Manager a question about road expenses over the past 5 years. 

Supposedly, according to his “research,” the county has spent $9,000,000 on roads outside of the city limits of Monticello over the last 5 years.  What was NOT asked was, how much of the $9,000,000 came from SPLOST funds?  How much came from State LMIG funds that the county had to provide a 30% match?  SPLOST funds and LMIG funds would not count toward the “double taxation” Stone Workman is doing his best to push.

How much of the $9,000,000 actually came from the General Fund?  Where did the figure $9,000,000 come from?  Is it based on “facts” or is it based on a guesstimate provided by the County Manager? 

Councilwoman Jenny Murphy said she did not want to pursue the County doing City Code Enforcement. Workman responded saying, “We just want the money to do the job ourselves because we can do it better.”

Councilwoman Cynthia Williams said, “The City is part of the County.”  Workman said the Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled in favor of cities.  (This is not true!)

(At the 9/6/18 meeting, David Wease corrected Workman’s statement and said that the Supreme Court sent the case (Greene County vs. Union Point) back for those entities to settle because the court felt each city and county was unique.)

Workman followed with, “This is Irrefutable double taxation.  If I was mayor I wouldn’t sign it because it is double taxation.”

 

SEPTEMBER 6TH MEETING

During the September 6 meeting, Mayor Standifer asked each council member to give their opinion on the SDS negotiations and if they wanted to continue with negotiations or move forward with how things were now. 

Councilman David Wease was first to answer.  He said, “The old SDS has the Sheriff Dep’t in it and that needs to be taken out.”  Immediately Workman cut in and stated double taxation was illegal.  Workman added, “And we need a SDS that does not subsidize the unincorporated area, conservation properties, and second homes on the lake.”  Workman went on and on.  Wease finally got to continue and said he wanted to move forward with the SDS like it was. 

Then it was Councilwoman Cynthia Miller’s turn.  Workman interrupted her as well, and the Mayor finally touched Workman on the arm and told him everyone should have a say and “we” need to be respectful and let everyone speak.  She also concluded they should move forward with the SDS like it was.

Councilwoman Jenny Murphy was worried about losing the chance at the Health Dep’t grant for the building renovation.  She said, “I can’t see creating a new tax district.”  She also wanted to move forward with SDS like it was.

Stone Workman said that Butts County had just paid Jackson some money for something.  Jenny Murphy responded saying, “Madison pays $125K per quarter to Morgan County for 911.  We are getting a good deal on some things.”

The Mayor stated the majority felt the City should move forward on the SDS as it was, and he would call the City attorney and relay that to him.  He also said they would confirm this at their next meeting on September 11.

Stone Workman concluded this part of the meeting with, “I will be so disappointed!  We are giving away all this money!!”

The BOC has not met to discuss their positions on the SDS. 

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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KENNEL? TRAINING CENTER? PUPPY MILL? WHAT IS IT?

September 4, 2018

Facebook posts, conversations, and telephone calls that TWG is privy to, all question just what is going on at the Peach State K9 “business” on Highway 212 near Larry’s 4 Way.

The following bold post was posted on Facebook by someone out of Atlanta the other evening. It appears that even people from out of town driving by, question what is going on at the location of Peach State K9.

According to Williams’ own video on his Facebook page, over 20 dogs are housed on the property.  What is sad is even though Animal Control has tried to go on the property to check on the dogs,  David Williams has refused to let them on the property.  Both Mike Benton, County Manager, and Shane Sealy, P&Z/Code Enforcement director, have also stopped Animal Control from doing their job by not enforcing the code section allowing Animal Control to go on the property.  WHY? 

The owner of this “business” touts that he has puppies for sale, both on a big sign near the road and on Facebook- 

If there are puppies 6 weeks to 9 months old, TWG has been told that would mean there are three litters of puppies being sold.  However, to sell litters, a license from the Department of Agriculture is needed unless only ONE litter a year is sold.  Why is the DOA not involved again here?  What is for sale or co-own for “select sport competitors?”

David Williams, d/b/a Peach State K9, was recently fined $150  in Magistrate Court for “Failure to Provide Humane Care.”  It was done in a very extraordinary way. 

In July, Williams was fined $300 for not having a business license.  He paid the fine and Sealy promptly gave him a business license for dog training but only OFF the premises.  In August, Williams was back in court for two violations continued from July.  One was for solid waste violations, which he told the judge he just threw a couple of pieces of wood over the fence. Really?

And the other was for the animal control violation of humane care, which he blamed on rainy weather.  (See pictures here.)

Williams told the judge he did not want to plead guilty because this was his livelihood.  (TWG has a tape of the entire proceedings of this case on August 3, 2018.) 

The solicitor, which handles all the cases for Jasper County (at taxpayers’ expense), and the Magistrate Judge decided that Williams did not have to plead guilty.  Instead, they said he could pay the fine and they would mark it “satisfied.”  Then the Solicitor decided that he would take 1/2 of the $300 fine already paid to the County for the business license violation in July, and give it to Animal Control for their fine, and do away with the solid waste violation altogether!  Animal Control nor Code Enforcement, both of whom attended the hearings, were allowed NO say in this decision.  Why is the Solicitor allowed to do away with fines and not follow the Jasper County codes?

During the 13 minute proceeding, the Solicitor did say, “Animal Control is going to go out and keep inspecting the property.”  However, they have been kept from doing so!  Why?

Why are there over 20 dogs on this property that is only Ø.63 acres?  Why can’t Animal Control go on the property to check on the health and welfare of all the animals?  Why does Peach State K9 not have a breeder’s license? Is this really a puppy mill?  Where are the Jasper County Commissioners on this issue?

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in Animal Control, Code Enforcement, Shane Sealy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

THERE IS NO DEAL BETWEEN THE BOE AND BOC CONCERNING STANTON SPRINGS

August 29, 2018

There is NO DEAL between the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners concerning the split in revenues from Stanton Springs (JDA/Four County Development Authority).  The August 23, 2018 article “School Board Discusses Stanton Springs Funds” in The Monticello News contained many incorrect statements and was misleading at best.

FACT:  There was no agreement between the County and the Board of Education in 2016 regarding the JDA/Stanton Springs revenues and the investment split.

FACT:  Dr. Newton says the BOE would like “their share”; however, the Board of Education has never invested anything in the Stanton Springs deal. 

FACT: The JDA has NOT repaid each of the initial four county investors (the BOC (taxpayers) of each of the counties-Newton, Walton, Morgan, and Jasper) for the sum of their initial investments over the past 20 years.  Jasper County has invested somewhere close to $1.2M (not counting foregone taxes given away) and has just received $250,000.

FACT:  On September 20, 2016, the Jasper County BOE entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the JDA, not with Jasper County BOC.

FACT: On September 20, 2016, the JDA initiated an a new intergovernmental agreement, that each of the four counties approved, giving JDA full control over all tax revenues from Stanton Springs for the NEXT FIFTY (50) YEARS.  In return, the counties get what the JDA decides it does not need for its own budget and projects.  In fact, the counties agreed to waive any claim or right to the tax revenues (page 11 of the agreement).

FACT:  Any agreement to split the money from JDA between Jasper County BOC and Jasper County BOE has yet to be made, and must be a separate agreement between the two entities (page 5 of the agreement).

FACT: The JDA recently sold property to Facebook for $16M.  Of that money, approximately $7M was used to pay off debt the JDA incurred on behalf of the four counties.  The JDA was going to keep the other $8M for their future projects, including extending the parkway; however, out of the goodness of their hearts, they decided to “give” the counties $2.5M to share.  $250,000 of that $2.5M came to the Jasper County BOC.  

Citizens in the four counties are usually left out of the loop when it comes to the JDA and all the agreements that are made and voted on, and maybe the School Board is out of the loop, too.  However, there is no agreement in place to share revenues from the JDA (Stanton Springs/Four County Development Authority) with the Jasper County School System, and for the Superintendent and the School Board to discuss it and have it reported as if there is an agreement, is deceptive.  Or is it a ploy to have the Jasper County BOC send them money?

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in County, Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

PLAN FOR FUTURE OF JASPER COUNTY KEPT FROM PUBLIC

August 23, 2018

 Why is the plan for the future of Jasper County being kept from the public?  The Monticello News has yet to publish what is in the plan.  It didn’t give the public any insight before the public hearing, nor did it report on what was discussed at the public hearing Monday night.  The citizens need to have an opportunity to know about the 10 year plan before it is approved.

Here are steps in the process for the Comprehensive Plan for Jasper County:

  1. Local input is transmitted to NEGRC
  2. NEGRC sends to Dept of Community Affairs at the State for review
  3. DCA sends back for revisions and plan is resubmitted if necessary
  4. Plan is Adopted by resolutions of County & Cities
  5. THEN THE PUBLIC IS NOTIFIED OF ITS ADOPTION

Yep, you got that right.  AFTER the plan is adopted, the public is notified—the last step in the process.    

Very few citizens attended the “public hearing” on Monday night.  From our count there were approximately 11 citizens.  Four or five of these citizens spoke against the increase in designated residential areas on the land use map far outside the city limits of Monticello.   Despite their concerns, it was obvious their comments were not going to change anything.  The biggest concern was even though this area is now zoned as Agriculture, if property is sold, zoning will look to the Future Land Use map to determine the use.

Also attending were the Economic Development professionals (as the moderator/planner called them) David Dyer and Pam Hammonds.  The cities were represented by Jenny Murphy, David Wease, Larry Champion, and Lyn McLaurin.  The county employees attending were Mike Benton, Shane Sealy, and Tracy Travillo.  Two commissioners, Don Jernigan and Bruce Henry, attended.  Eva Kennedy with the NEGRC who developed the plan, made the presentation.  Kathy Mudd, editor of the paper also attended.

Two people attending did speak up and say we needed more growth.  David Wease, Monticello City Councilman, said we (Jasper County) needed to grow like Henry County.  He thought Henry County just grew too fast, but what they had was good.  Adam McGinnis, local real estate agent, pushed for even more residential because he said it would bring in more sales tax, and more people were moving here.

No one brought up the fact that there are at least 5 (or more) empty or nearly empty subdivisions with around 200 lots in Jasper County right now.  These were developed before the housing crash in 2008.

Eva Kennedy commented that the questionnaire determined that the people of the county wanted more housing; however, she admitted it was not scientific and people could vote more than once.  I have since been told very few people filled out the survey/questionnaire.  It is easy to see that if you really wanted lots of residential and/or more growth, you and others could fill out the survey several times.  If you took the survey, it was obvious the only answers you could choose led to a determined outcome.

What kind of industry does the plan show for Jasper County? The plan says “Industrial and commercial development should be encouraged.”  David Dyer answered that question and said, “All our plans are for green industry. They don’t require infrastructure and are low impact.”  When asked why this is not in Comprehensive Plan, Mr. Dyer said it didn’t have to be because it was in the Development Authority ( DAJC) plan.

NEGRC was there to “Assist” the county and cities in developing the plan.   The County paid around $6700 for this plan to be developed. 

Since the plan has not been voted on and approved by the BOC or cities yet, you should take time to read it and send your comments directly to the BOC and/or City Council members. 

The NEGRC has set up a dropbox link for you to view the Joint Comprehensive Plan Update here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vx4pvnt3lrpcdk7/DRAFT%20Jasper%20Co%20Joint%20Comprehensive%20Plan%208.10.2018.pdf?dl=0

 Unfortunately, many people feel as if citizen input does not matter anyway.  As one blog commenter stated, “It appears to me that citizen input is just an ACT of kindness and then written off as totally IRRELEVANT!  I’m sick and tired of the game and charades the few that think they know what is best and to heck with what the people want.”

 

TWG

Citizens, be informed and stay informed!  Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County.  That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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www.facebook.com/taxdogs

Posted in City, County, Economic Development | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments