County reports $18M surplus
by Kim Isaza
November 21, 2012 12:47 AM | 9365 views | 66 66 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee (MDJ File Photo)
Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee (MDJ File Photo)
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MARIETTA — Cobb County has a budget surplus of nearly $18 million left over from fiscal year 2012, and on Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners will be asked to use that money for a property tax rate reduction and to make improvements that include upgrading the courts’ computer systems.

Separately, county Chairman Tim Lee has proposed across-the-board raises of 3 percent for all county employees, using $4.5 million in excess funds from the county’s medical and dental account. That proposal will also be considered Tuesday night, and if approved, employees could see larger paychecks by Dec. 27.

The county has 4,182 full-time and 782 part-time employees.

But the raises could morph into a one-time bonus, as all four district commissioners questioned the county’s ability to sustain an across-the-board raise.

Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell both said they prefer a bonus, and Commissioner Woody Thompson said he’s leaning that way, too.

“I very much want to give something to the employees, but my concern with a pay raise is that it obligates the county to the future expense,” said Ott, who represents southeast Cobb. “But this is not ‘to give, or not to give.’ Everybody knows what the employees have been through in the last five years.”

Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb, said she’d like to give a one-time, 3 percent bonus to employees before Christmas.

“This is one-time money we found through savings,” she said. “We don’t know what next year is going to hold. … I just don’t think we can incorporate the money as a pay increase without knowing we’re going to be OK.”

Thompson, who represents southwest Cobb, said he’s favoring the bonus, though he had not yet reviewed a printout Lee provided.

“My feeling is that we’ll do it as a bonus because we’re not sure what’s going to happen in the future,” Thompson said.

Commissioner Helen Goreham, of northwest Cobb, said she hasn’t made up her mind on whether the money should be a raise or a bonus.

“I want to be positive this is sustainable in the future,” she said. “That’s my main concern.”

But employees deserve something, she said, since “they’re the main reason we’re in such good shape.”

Chairman Lee, though, believes raises are “very much sustainable.”

“A bonus also doesn’t address morale concerns, because it’s not seen as a long-term commitment of where the county is going,” he said.

The $17.9 million budget surplus, meanwhile, is a result of increased revenue from development, business and real estate fees, as well as veterinary-service income from the animal shelter, coupled with reduced spending by county agencies, and $5.2 million in unused contingency funds in 2012, Lee said.

The county’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

This is Lee’s proposal for what to do with the surplus: reduce the property tax rate by 0.2 mills for fiscal 2013 ($4.7 million); upgrade technology infrastructure in courts ($3.2 million); pay off debt for Powder Springs Station ($2.8 million); contingency planning ($2.7 million); accountable and capital equipment ($1.5 million); update police fleet ($1 million); replacement tower for McCollum airport ($1.3 million); storage of archeological items found during county construction ($62,000); solid waste post-closure study of landfills ($50,000) and solid waste methane gas issue at closed landfills ($250,000).

The property tax reduction, for now, would merely subtract that amount from the county’s revenue projections for fiscal 2013, because commissioners cannot set the property tax rate until the end of the fiscal year. Lee also has proposed rolling back the general-fund millage rate over the next five years to return it to the same level, a total of 9.6 mills, before the 2011 increase was approved.

The rollback would only affect the general-fund millage, which is now at 7.72 mills, and if commissioners approve, would be reduced to 7.52 mills.

The county also collects separate property taxes for the fire fund (3.06 mills) and for debt service (0.33 mills). With those included, the county’s total millage is now at 11.11 mills, but would go to 10.91 mills if the commissioners approve the rollback.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Lee also insisted the 2011 increase was essential at the time.

“When the millage (increase) was done, it was absolutely necessary to balance the 2011 budget,” Lee said. “When we developed a 2012 budget, we anticipated a worse year than actually occurred, from a revenue perspective.”

He credited fiscal management, conservative budgeting, and “4,000-plus employees busting their butts to still provide the best services the Cobb way” for the county’s improved bottom line.

“As a result, we have a surplus. That’s why also I can begin to roll back the millage,” Lee said. “I can’t roll the entire thing back because it’s unsustainable all at once. But if things continue to improve, I would be able to accelerate that rollback, instead of the five-year plan.”
Comments
(66)
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MPCato
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November 26, 2012
You gotta love the rationale from Ott, Thompson, etc. that they can't do a raise because: "...we’re not sure what’s going to happen in the future."

By that logic, nobody, anywhere, would ever get a raise (unless they worked for a clairvoyant).
Do the Right Thing
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November 26, 2012
I am all for Cobb County employees getting a 3 percent pay increase. To make it fair I recommend any employee that has gotten a promotion in the last 3 years that included a pay increase should not get a 3 percent pay increase; as they have gotten a pay increase when no one else has. As far as the retirees are concerned they should not even think of getting a pay increase, as they get all got quite a bonus to retire early so quit your wining.
anonymous 2012
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November 26, 2012
People getting promoted now are actually taking pay cuts. There are no raises given by the County and have not been any in 5 years. Unless your a Commissioner, County Manager, or performing arts employee, then you can get a raise and better bennefits.
to do the right thin
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November 26, 2012
The money for raises will come from money given by those who pay for their insurance through the county that includes some retires and some employees. So tell me why should anyone get money they did not contribute too.

Incase you didn't know there are many employees who preceeded the "Hankerson Bailout" who barely get by. many of whome contribute to that same fund you want to give to some who dont deserve it from that source.

You do need raises and I for one have fought for that, but fair is fair.

Would you want people to get money from the backs of other employees? YOU PROBABLY DO!!

DEngFF
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November 25, 2012
Hey,Its a matter of supply and demand when it comes to public Service jobs.And you winey butts,apply for those so called over paid Firefighter jobs and become one of us.What you scared of alittle fire,AIDS patients,Blood all over you,People with there head blow off,2 year old dead in front of you,all lifes worse situations you will face.Come on Big boy join us.
Samuel Adams
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November 26, 2012
Thank you for the work you do for us, DEngFF. There are so many people in the county who do appreciate the work you do and the way you touch our lives and the lives of our children.

Not familiar with your pay or benefits, but the most foolish thing a government can do is to underpay and/or hurt the morale of its first responders. You have the support of the citizens, as well as our gratitude.

Learning by living
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November 27, 2012
DEngFF

Firefighter should get paid like sports and movie stars. You guy rock
dustoff
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November 22, 2012
Hope us retirees see a little in our checks also.
cobbperson
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November 22, 2012
why doesn't snot give up his salary? He makes plenty as a pilot. His ideas are stale and stupid. How does a moron like snot get elected?

His ideas are from the 1980's.

Why doesn't he move on and let someone who is up with the times, be in his decision making role rather than keeping up his charade?

Watcher...
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November 23, 2012
Commissioner Ott is doing the will of Cobb Taxpayers, who will soon galvanize into a strong, united voting block.
proudvet
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November 24, 2012
@cobbperson: Most civilized folks simply ignore disrespectful, and rude blogs like yours. I guess you are a big supporter of politicians who don't have real jobs and simply live off the public dole. You may not like that he has a job outside of the government, but if you go look at the founders, they all had real jobs too and only came to the government to do the people's business and then they went home to work. Seems like the better way to me.
TIC
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November 25, 2012
@cobbperson

Snot? Now that's a mature moniker for someone.

Kind of shows the level of your intellect.

Maybe we need to go back to some of the older fiscal practices that actually worked instead of the tax and spend, let's grow government strategy currently being employed by the RINO's in Cobb County.

Tim Lee is certainly keeping up with the times.

By shifting pots of taxpayer money around to give the impression of responsible budgeting he seems to have adopted the unsustainable Obama template of governance.

Leebama is leading this county down a dangerous road that will end in an economic disaster.

Here we go again
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November 21, 2012
It is funny every time someone discusses cutting taxes fire and police department employees, the highest paid employees in the county, scream come do our jobs. You guys stand ready to turn your backs on the other county employees and sell them out. It must be tough for the fire department to work 8 days a month and get pay to sleep when they are at working. It must be nice to pay $15 a month into a state retirement plan and receive $700 or more a month when you retire. It must be tough to work for a department that is over 25% management. It must be tough knowing that you will never be required to compete for promotions with outside employees. Like any other employee if you are unhappy with your employment and can find a better job then go. I have been told that there are thousands of applicants wanting to work for Cobb County public safety. So it must not be too bad of a place to work. County employees must remember that they work for the public and are not the employer.
Public Servant
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November 23, 2012
I won't tell you my salary on a message board like this, but I assure you it is not high. Firefighters work 121 days a year for 24 hours straight. That includes all holidays and weekends. We receive no extra compensation for this, and I am not asking for it. We average between 48 hours and 72 hours of work PER WEEK. Whereas I imagine you average 40 hours a week. And probably make a much higher base salary as well. I also work a second and third job, because my said "high" salary is actually low enough I could collect wellfare if I actually believed in it.

You're right. I do get to sleep on shift every now and then. Oh wait, except I don't. Because I'm too busy running calls for most of the night while you're at home in your nice comfy bed. There's some days I don't even know how I make it home in the morning I'm so tired. Please enjoy your family time this holiday season. Because I won't. I'll be at work.

Hey maybe you can come do a ride along one of these days with the fire department. Maybe you should pick July 4th, Christmas or Easter day to do it too. And make sure you stay for the night half so you can stumble to the Engine at 12am, 2am and 4am. Because that 30 minute nap in between calls sure does make a difference when you've been training all day and running calls.

This department as well as PD has been losing people left and right to better options. And its only going to continue until things change. And if you think all those people applying for public safety are quality people then you must be crazy. Any man or woman worth anything is looking elsewhere right now due to uninformed people like yourself having so much say in what happens to us.
Ditto 11
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November 23, 2012
Could not have said it better. Public Safety employees all think they are special. They are top heavy with management and overpaid for the actual time spent doing real work!
Get Real
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November 24, 2012
Public Servant typical fire department BS. I assume you are a Cobb County firefighter. The base pay for an entry level firefighter is $35K per year that is almost $3K per month. To be eligible for to collect welfare you would need to have been only an entry level firefighter with a household of over 6 people. You work two other jobs because you are off two-thirds of the time.

Compared to its civilian employees that having higher qualifications the county’s sworn employees, firefighter and police officers, are paid at a higher pay grade. Firefighters get a “promotion” after18 month probation period. And they as basically eligible for promotion every 2-3 years after making each rank. My neighbor is a county firefight with only a high education; his base pay is over $75K per year.

If you are working every third day means you work an occasional holiday, Saturday, or Sunday. If you are not one of the dozen people taking off that day. The respond numbers that your department releases does not support the claims that you are too busy running calls to sleep. If the 24 hours shifts are too much for you perhaps the county should change to 12 hour shifts.

I hear police officers and other county employee are coming over to the fire department because the job is easier and they work less. Did the county not tell you want you would be making prior to giving you a job? Are they holding you hostage? If you have the qualifications to make more money then go? You stated that not all the people applying for public safety positions are quality people. Can the can same be said of the people already in those positions? You may consider me uninformed but it appears that I know more about your department than you. You just want people to feel sorry for you and try to scare people. Get Real.. you are not anything special.

Public Servent
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November 25, 2012
Dear Get Real,

It is a complete waste of my time to even try to argue with you. You already think you know more about my job then I do. 95% of what you just wrote is so off base its not even funny. Part of me even thinks you secretly want to be a firefighter but just can't be for some reason. Do you hate our troops this much too? I mean they don't pay taxes when they're overseas getting shot at, but its not like they're shooting bad guys 24/7. We should make them clock out when they aren't right?

Maybe you can have my spot when I finish nursing school. I used to love my job, but people like you took that away from me. It used to be a career people resepected. But respect doesn't pay the bills,and nowadays the Kardashians are more important than 9/11. I just hope I don't end up your neighbor any time soon. I can only take so much ignorance before I give up on a person.

Anyone can look at a bunch of numbers and statistics and see whatever they want. Just realize there are a lot of variables in those statistics you might not be seeing. Have a good candid coversation with a firefighter or police officer before you go off the deep end next time. I might be able to respect a slightly informed decision.
Public Servent
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November 21, 2012
Dear Cobb Residents,

I plead with you to read this article and try to understand it before posting comments or making an uninformed decision on the possible raises.

Yes I am a county employee. Yes I know half of you now automatically think I'm fat, lazy, overpaid, ignorant, uneducated and useless. To you people I recommend a ride-along with the olice or Fire Department ASAP. This can be set up quite easily through the county offices.

Now to the important part. That 3% raise or bonus is to be given through our 4.5 surplus in medical funds. These funds were procured through a bi-weekly payroll deduction in every emlpoyees pay check. Health care premiums. Everyone pays them. Well apparently we paid too much for them. Now the county would like to give them back to us. Which I find to be the fair thing to do. But please, tell me why I am wrong.

Sincerely,

Your humble Public Servent.

For a while longer at least.
anonymous
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November 21, 2012
Very few people who live in and pay taxes to Cobb would think your remarks about county employees are accurate. County residents have faced economic hardship in the last four years, too.

If your statement about the bonus is true then the funds should be refunded to whoever overpaid. Don't call it a bonus call it a refund of overpaid insurance premiums.

Scott Miller
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November 24, 2012
Dear humble Public Servant,

I've had nothing but good experiences with the folks that work for the County. I hope that you guys get the bonus with raises to follow. We choose to live in Cobb in great part because the local government is well-run.

Take care!
to Watcher
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November 24, 2012
Shell game's statement about an EXTRA $50 per pay check for a spouse isn't an insurance premium.. it's an extra fee charged to employees who choose to include their spouses on their county insurance. Seems a bit unreasonable for the county to reap $1200 a year from married employees. For county employees who are married to county employees, they are hit double.. for a fee.. not an inurance premium.
leChat
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November 23, 2012
@Watcher: Perhaps you should save your foolish comments for the rare occasion when you actually understand an issue.

Shell Game isn't saying he gets family insurance for $100 a month, he's saying he pays that much OVER the standard family rate based merely on a factor of his spouse's employment status outside the county. Someone in the same job with a stay-at-home spouse would be allowed to get the same coverage, but pay $1300 per year less.
Public Servent
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November 23, 2012
Watcher:

The $50 is ON TOP OF your insurance premiums for a family. The cheapest of which run between 120-200 per pay period(2 weeks). You are not ONLY paying $50 for having your spouse on the insurance like I'm sure you automatically assumed.
USMCVet92-96
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November 23, 2012
Watcher... Please read the post. He said an EXTRA $50, not $50 total.
anonymous
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November 23, 2012
Your plea would be heard louder, had you put your real name.
Watcher...
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November 23, 2012
re: "Shell Game,"You are getting a real bargain at $ 50 per pay period!
retirees too
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November 22, 2012
I am glad you brought out the funding source. I gree that the employees need a raise or bonus, but also believe retires, who also contribute to the fund, need one as well.
Watcher...
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November 21, 2012
The tolerance, of Cobb Taxpayers, for Pols and Bureaucrats is probably at an all time low!

The current cost of Cobb government is not sustainable.
Shell Game
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November 21, 2012
Cobb started a new policy last year that only effected employees with spouses who work full-time. If your spouse is eligible for insurance coverage with their work, but you choose to cover them under a family plan with Cobb, you pay an extra $50 per pay check, or about $1,200 per year.

It is infuriating and unfair. It equates to a tax on employees with spouses who work.

I find it ironic that there is a surplus in the medical account after they added this "tax" on employees. Now, they plan to give a one time bonus of 3% - take with one hand, give with the other.

In my case, rhe 3% bonus is about equivalent to the tax you imposed on me already.
PriorCobbCoResident
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November 25, 2012
Quote

Separately, county Chairman Tim Lee has proposed across-the-board raises of 3 percent for all county employees, using $4.5 million in excess funds from the county’s medical and dental account.

End Quote

Cobb County has not given anything to their employees as a raise in years ... and saying this could be voted as a bonus or a raise ... when it is clearly 'over payments' that should be refunded to the employees takes the cake! The employees are once again going to be penalized for working for Cobb County and that is unacceptable!

Cobb County - higher ups: I am not surprised there is an active and ongoing FBI investigation!

baneeny
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November 21, 2012
I'm thrilled that the Chairman has put this out on the agenda and hope that he can show the Commissioners that the funding for raises is sustainable. No one wants to increase taxes to give raises and I'm happy the Chairman can also offer up a millage decrease at the same time as a raise for employees. We've all worked hard to cut spending, become more efficient, and still provide services expected. I'm glad that we're being recognized for all that effort.
SG68
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November 21, 2012
So tell me again why we need a $20M transfer from the Water System to balance the county budget.

Maybe I am missing something here.

How about raises and bonuses for those county employees who actually deserve it as opposed to something automatic across the board for all employees whether they have earned it or not.

Don't supervisors and dept. managers do annual performance reviews of their employees?

Base the bonuses and raises on that.
I would agree,but
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November 22, 2012
I would agree, but the monies they would be recieving are monies they contributed, so this would be a refund and not a raise or bonus.
get what you pay 4
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November 21, 2012
Unless you plan on gearing up and standing a post - I'd suggest you back off the talk of "screw the employees". The S.O. is down 40 positions from the exit of employees going to dept. that are offering to take care to them- and you can bet they are going to have to lower the standards in order to get replacements. When the Obama's justice department shows up, you will pay whatever THEY determine you will pay in order to keep the jail staffed-just ask Fulton co. At the PD the same thing is going to happen - our young officers are already shopping other depts.
Just Sayin'....
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November 21, 2012
Leave the property taxes alone!!! Now is not the time to think we are sitting pretty. This recession is far from over and you rascals have proven over and over again that you are not rocket scientists when it comes to managing the budget. Leave it alone for now, and when we see a pattern of recovery THEN monkey with it. Gee whiz...
Devlin Adams
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November 21, 2012
From a projected shortfall to a surplus, in about 6 months. Sounds to me like we not only need new Chairman of the commission, but a new county manager and most definitely a new look at projecting revenue vs. spending.
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
Well said.

If I was that inaccurate in my job, I'd get fired - not a bonus.
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
Hey, MDJ, if you're going to edit my post and change the content, I'd rather you just reject it altogether.

The best way to lose respect is through censorship.
Web Editor
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November 21, 2012
No one edited your content. Posts are either approved or rejected. They are not edited.
Watcher...
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November 21, 2012
Gringo Bandito is correct! "That surplus wouldn't exist if they didn't steal $20 million from the water department."

STOP the annual $ 20,000,000 transfer from the Cobb Water System. Reduce water rates.

How in the world can you run Cobb government without matching revernues with costs?

Politicians BEWARE! Taxpayers are sick and tired of the games of Pols and Bureaucrats. Cobb is still in a recession. NO RAISES! Cut costs!
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
"Politicians BEWARE! Taxpayers are sick and tired of the games of Pols and Bureaucrats."

Sadly, the recent election proved that not to be the case. More taxes and more handouts. Might as well get used to it. That's what the majority of voters want.
USMCVet92-96
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November 21, 2012
Glad to see employee's are not worth the expense as far as Bob Ott is concerned!
Big Fan
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November 21, 2012
I for one am glad to see county workers getting a raise. I see these folks working all the time and have to say they do a very good job. Beats the heck out of Fulton County employees. Cobb actually answers the phone and/or returns your call the same day. Good job Mr. Lee and commissioners
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
LOL! You almost had us there, Mr Cobb County Employee.
to icedog
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November 22, 2012
I agree with you on controlling spending, but the money for raises or bonusus is not being taken from the taxpayer. Those funds were contributed by the employees,and retirees only. They were over charged and should be refunded by a bonus to make it fair for all.

Happy Holidays for a job well done
Bonus is fair and eq
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November 21, 2012
Give a bonus so the upper management wont get more than the real workers on the bottom. Raises mean, those who already make more get more; and we all know they don't do more.

A raise for the rank and file wont bee seen, but a nice bonus would make all the difference for the holiday season.
mk-waste/fraud
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November 21, 2012
So THAT's the reason the Senior Center on Roswell street (off Windy Hill/Smyrna), that closed 2 years ago,sitting empty & vacant.. continues to keep the lights on all around the building every nite,... we, in Cobb, can afford the waste!!

God bless'em!!
anonymous
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November 21, 2012
Lights stay on for security reasons.
mk-visualize.....
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November 22, 2012
Security?? For 2 years??

Find a use for this building, sell it, or tear it down!! But to pay a light bill on an empty building for 2 YEARS is irresponsible WASTE!

How 'bout a cultural ARTS center (which is very LACKING all around Cobb),.. or build a SKATE PARK- which is VERY MUCH NEEDED in the area!

Kids want to do stuff- gets em outta the house! Encourage exercise & creativity!!

USMCVet92-96
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November 23, 2012
mk-visualize..... It's your job to promote exercise and creativity into your child, not the Counties!
VFP42
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November 21, 2012
Judge Cox says we need to cut a State Court judge and support staff.

Tim Lee says we have piles of money we can give away.

CAGE MATCH!
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
Surplus! Gotta spend it! Raises and bonuses for all! We've done such a great job!
Pay Attention
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November 21, 2012
IceDogg- slow down and read the story. They are reducing property taxes and paying off debt as well. Sounds like Cobb is doing the right thing to me.
IceDogg
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November 21, 2012
I read the story, and apparently paid better attention that you - or, perhaps, my expectations are higher of our elected officials.

A property tax rate reduction of 0.2 mills is not acceptable. That accounts for less than 1/4 of the "surplus".

Taxpayers didn't vote for a new tower at McCollum airport. We didn't vote for an upgrade of technology infrastructure in courts (shouldn't court fees cover that?).

I'd start by paying back the $20,000,000 that Lee stole from the Water Dept and reduce the water/sewage rates to what they should be.

If you can't afford to pay minimum wage employees to mow the medians, you can't afford a "bonus", across the board, for people just doing their jobs.
lechat
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November 21, 2012
Doggy, you think the librarians, deputies, mechanics, etc. caused those expenses and should pay for them rather than all the rest of us, then?

If you want neglected facilities, sub-par staff, and shorthanded departments to "serve" you, there are several other nearby counties that can fill your needs, freeloader.
what they deserve
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November 22, 2012
The raises will come from their own contributions and not taxes. It really wont be a raise, it will be a refund that retirees that contribute should get as well.
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