Commissioners to vote on chairman’s proposals for excess millions
by Jon Gillooly
November 27, 2012 12:37 AM | 6565 views | 48 48 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Cobb Chairman Tim Lee i<br>Staff/File
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee i
Staff/File
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MARIETTA — Residents have differing thoughts on county chairman Tim Lee’s plans for spending $22.5 million in excess funds, which commissioners will vote on at tonight’s meeting.

Lee proposes using $4.5 million from the county’s medical and dental account to give employees a 3 percent raise because they haven’t had one in five years. He also wants to use about $18 million left over from fiscal year 2012 for a property tax reduction and to make improvements such as upgrading the court system’s computer network.

Tom Maloy of Powder Springs, a member of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party, said while his group hasn’t yet discussed the matter, he opposes a pay raise. The $4.5 million should be a one-time bonus, Maloy said.

“When the economy stabilizes, start talking about permanent salary increases, but right now they just don’t have enough evidence that the economy is even going to stabilize at all or recover,” Maloy said.

Better to give a one-time bonus and keep the staff employed rather than a salary hike and have to furlough if the economy slips next year, he said.

“If they give county employees a raise that’s permanent, a permanent raise in 2013, the way I look at it, they will probably be looking at furloughs and layoffs in 2014 or trying to increase property taxes again as they did two years ago,” Maloy said, referring to how Lee raised property taxes by 1.5 mills. “It’s great to make everybody feel good and say everybody is going to get a raise, but if that means that they’re going to be furloughed or laid off in a year, I’m not so sure how good that raise is going to do them.”

Commissioner Bob Ott said the decision should not be framed as whether to give county employees the money.

“This is a matter of what is the most prudent way to recognize the sacrifices and the hard work that they have done,” Ott said.

Ott said it’s premature to obligate the county to fund the pay increase without knowing whether such positive signs as an increase in SPLOST revenue and a lower unemployment rate will be sustained in light of Obamacare and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

“We have this one time money, we’re going to pay it as a bonus, and then we’re going to watch carefully over the next year exactly how the county finances go in light of all those other things that could easily have a negative effect on the economy,” he said. “If next year we can continue to lower the millage rate and not increase the water rate, and decrease the water transfer then we clearly have a sustainable recovery in place.”

Lee said Ott’s position is an example of Ott not wanting “to commit to anything.”

“Frankly, he sees the glass half-empty and I see it half-full,” Lee said.

Lee said a five-year forecast tells him such a raise is sustainable even if Congress fails to prevent the country from falling off the fiscal cliff.

“If we go off the fiscal cliff that in itself is more directly related to individuals than it is county government because a fiscal cliff is letting tax breaks for individuals and companies expire, so you as an individual will have $2,000 more additional dollars taken from your paycheck next year not the county,” Lee said. “The county won’t be impacted to that extent, but you as an individual, so you’ll be taking home $2,000 less next year as a result of the fiscal cliff. With that in mind, giving them that 3 percent at least offsets that fiscal cliff impact on the individual somewhat.”

Larry Savage of east Cobb, who challenged Lee in the primary election, lacks Lee’s optimism.

“Right now is a time of the greatest uncertainty of all as they head to this fiscal cliff thing and then the pending implementation of Obamacare, you can say that won’t affect the county, but you don’t know that because what we don’t know is what the ultimate fallout in the economy at large will be and when there is fallout in the economy at large we might see the barely developing improvement in the real estate market might collapse, the whole economy might be adversely affected, we just don’t know,” Savage said. “There’s so many unknowns and the opportunity for things to go bad in a heartbeat are unpredictable but many.”

Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy said Lee assured him the raise was sustainable, and he supports Lee’s plan.

“People can live better on a permanent salary than they can on what might not be a bonus,” Dendy said.

As for allocating about $18 million left over from fiscal year 2012, Maloy points out that sum is similar to the amount commissioners transferred from the water system to the general fund to balance their budget earlier this year.

“Why did we borrow $20 million from the water fund when we had that $18 million?” Maloy asked. “Couldn’t we use some of that at least to replace the $20 million that we borrowed from the water fund?”

The $18 million budget surplus 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.

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).

Maloy said the 0.2 mill reduction isn’t much relief.

“I don’t see where that small amount is going to help the property owner that much,” Maloy said. “I would rather see them start backing out or reducing the amount of money they have to take out of the water fund until they reduce it to zero. They’re addicted to it.”

Dendy said a number of the expenses on Lee’s proposal are needed, such as replacing the dated court computer system, and the McCollum tower, which has blind spots.

“So there is money here that needs to be spent,” Dendy said. “I wouldn’t say take the full $18 million and give it back to the water system because I think some of these things are necessary.”
Comments
(48)
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I support
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November 28, 2012
What most of you don't understand in the private sector is that goverment employees are not paid the same as you are.

If you do great at work your boss can give you a raise, bonus, car and other perks for a job well done.

Government employees are paid on a pay scale that only provides defined increases no matter how hard they work. Those employees except that and understand that they will not get rich working for the county. That being said it's important to make sure you do pay well enough to keep the hard working quality employees right here in Cobb where they belong.

For example, take Gwinnett and Dekalb County. Similar in size and population to Cobb. Their crime rate is much higher in those counties and ecomonically they pay much higher tax rates. Cobb's crime rate is low, area is well maintained and we do it we less employee's than either of the other two. Just think how much it would cost in taxes to have to hire 150 more cops because crime is out of control. Cobb's police department works with fewer officers than either of those two counties and still has a lower crime rate. Thats what keeping good employees will do for you. Run all the good police off to another agency and you will see things change. That being said it applies to all departments in this county, not just the police.

Give the employees a raise and lets keep our good people here that have always done more with less than similar counties.
Cartrider
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November 28, 2012
Is this money going to burn a hole in the checkbook if not spent? Why does it have to be spent at all? And what people are getting raises and bonuses in this economy? NO, they need to wait and see just how high their insurance rates go up next year, I bet they will need extra money to pay for that.
Guest Again
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November 28, 2012
I have an awesome answer -- let the Commission decide, which is what you voted them into office for. You decide how to spend your own surplus, if you have any and have managed your money well. Duh. Then go worry your pretty little head about something else.
Thanks!
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November 28, 2012
People that believe giving the employees a small raise that none of them have seen over the past 5 years is going to bankrupt the county they need to see the big picture. If that small raise is going to bankrupt us then we are doomed anyway. The employees deserve a raise and everyone knows it. There is no reason that Cobb County has employees on food stamps so they can feed their kids. If people want to complain about tax money then they need to complain about unreasonable spending, but overall they do a good job of controlling that. Even the independent study showed that this county ran a pretty tight ship (for a government). We all pay less taxes than anyone else in the metro area and the county is quite nice. Don't turn the anger of your financial health on the county employees that are suffering in this tight economy just like you are.
Ron wright
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November 27, 2012
This county has jumped the shark. We now look to Dekalb and Clayton for guidance.
TroopersGal
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November 27, 2012
We elected the Commissioners to manage this county. Let them manage it. Every County issue should not be up for popular vote. This is not a popularity contest (although Ott treats it that way).
VFP42
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November 27, 2012
Cobb approved raises. TV 23 aired the meeting as always, the AJC ran a story, Google picked it up before 9pm, and the MDJ must be in bed with D.A. King at the old folks home dreaming up another story about how The Mexicans are ruining America
Luv it!
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November 27, 2012
Chairman Lee just won that vote 4-1. May there be MANY more of those Bob O!
mk- 3rd world
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November 27, 2012
These folks can't think of ANY way to spend this money to try to attract new business & manufacturing to Cobb?

IS THERE NO THOUGHT ABOUT COBB's FUTURE & whether there even IS a future for Cobb??

NEW BUSINESSES is what Cobb desperately needs & THAT is what would benefit ALL of Cobb citizens!!

Lee wants an ego stroking, so his employees will bow down when he passes by.

Cobb has been left behind eating Gwinnetts dust!

And the new Alpharetta Avalon will generate 21 million in sales tax for Fulton & 4.5 million in property tax, not to mention 4,000 good jobs!

Cobb elected officials have no vision and Cobb has fallen sorely behind the other metro counties. With votes like this, there is no future.
Watcher...
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November 27, 2012
"George Bernard Shaw famously said that those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul. And that’s correct—if Paul is a man of low character and little virtue. It’s correct if Paul fails to grasp the moral dangers of the forcible redistribution of wealth. It’s correct if Paul isn’t man enough to be offended by the insult of Big Brother’s paternalism."

Leslie Carbone is the author of "Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform" (Potomac, 2009).
TIC
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November 27, 2012
Pay the employees a bonus from the $5.2M unused contingency fund.

Pay them another bonus next year if there continues to be a surplus in the contingency fund.

So on and so on.

If their is no surplus or a smaller surplus then act accordingly.

Give back the $20M "stolen" from the Water Authority and its' customers.

When all is said and done doesn't it all comes out of the taxpayers and water customers pocket anyway.

Tom Sukalac
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November 27, 2012
Oh boy, Oh boy, we're gonna have some money left. Gotta spend it, spend it. Spend! Spend! Spend!
VFP42
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November 27, 2012
Yes it all comes out of the taxpayers pockets anyway, but when it's through the water bill, Cobb County can proudly claim to have the lowest millage rate in town.

Just never you mind about that water bill of yours or next thing we know there will be a water SPLOST "to build a reservoir that will keep us safe from Alabama and Florida's meddling ways"
Wiclow Bob
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November 27, 2012
Something I did not see here, while some are concerned that if employees were given a raise that a raise will place the obligation of finding the funding for the money not just for this year but in succeeding years as well. That is true but give employees a little credit here. For the last five years, the merit system was put on hold and for the last 5 years there were no raises. This did not just help meet the funding goals for those years but for successive years ahead as well.

ssbsr
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November 27, 2012
If you short, and barrowed 20 million from the water fund. Then a week later you discover that you have 22.5 Million excess. That just means you need to put the 20 million back where you got it from, and hire new accountant that can do math.
Public Servent
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November 27, 2012
Yeah except 4.5 million of the excess came straight from the employee's paycheck. Hence the medical and dental account overage. So yeah do whatever you want with the 18 million.
frankly speaking
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November 27, 2012
Frankly, I am so fed up with my high electric and water bills that I see red every time I open a bill. Why can't Lee do something about these high utilities? (Why am I even asking that question? This guy doesn't have a clue)
Cobb Electric??
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November 27, 2012
Cobb County has nothing to do with electric bills. If you want to lower your bill, do what I've done since my wife lost her job and our income was reduced by 1/3: Use less power. Turn off lights when your don't need them, turn the heat down and bundle up. Don't expect the county government to reduce something they have no control over. Obviously, Tim Lee isn't the only one without a clue.
Bait and Switch
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November 27, 2012
Rob Peter to pay Paul, It's not all surplus when you took it from the water funds. So basically you want to pay for some unfunded stuff using the water fund money. Then next week you can vote in the water rate hike, successfully passing off a hidden tax hike buy calling it a water rate hike. Wow, all done without having to bother a single voter. Wow, great job. Now, put it all back where you got it from and leave our water bill alone.
SG68
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November 27, 2012
Reimburse the water system and start living within the revenues that are generated by the revenue sources that are provided by the taxpayers in the county.

Cut spending for those county services that are not necessary for the day to day operations of the county.
Marietta Resident
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November 27, 2012
Where was all this outcry over the water system money moving 20 years ago when Sam Olens started it? No one cared back then but all of a sudden its a huge deal? You want to cut services? Like what? Like all the huge things Commissioner Ott's baby the Public Oversight Committee found? Oh wait it found barely anything? Suprise! We can't cut the libraries by golly! People would go nuts! So what is there to cut? Come up with some ideas or you're going to sound like Bob Ott. Cobb county residents: We want it all, we just don't want to pay for it.
VFP42
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November 27, 2012
The Water System is the smoke and the "lowest millage rate in Metro Atlanta" is the mirror.

The water bill is just a tax like all the others, but taxing via the water bill allows the local yocals to pretend the taxes here are lower than elsewhere although that very clearly is false.
leChat
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November 27, 2012
Most of us have already enjoyed overall reduced property taxes over the past few years as a result of lowered property values on the tax rolls (I have two properties in Cobb). Those who didn't probably had property that was already undervalued when this whole thing started, and have been paying less than the rest of us already. Part of that shortfall in revenue was paid for by furloughs, etc. of county employees, rather than raising millage rates to keep the county revenue stream at the same level. In other words, the commissioners partly subsidized the services we all enjoy on the backs of their employees instead of facing up to the howls of residents who didn't want this or that service cut, but didn't want to pony up the money themselves.

The commissioners need to do the right thing, pay their (our) employees, and keep Cobb a decent place rather than chase after Clayton county status.
History Lesson
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November 27, 2012
First lesson in history - Look back!!!! it will give you plenty of information to foresee where we are possibly headed.

TODAY -

"Lee said a five-year forecast tells him such a raise is sustainable"

And if it is not sustainable what will Lee Do?? Make cuts in the services provided by the county?

NEXT YEAR -

Here's the history part - He will cut all the services - Library hours, senior centers, government centers,furlough all staff,police and fire force, not mowing the medians and the list will go on and on - remember what he did a few years ago? and then everyone will be so upset and start their rant.... you can't take this away from me..... so then he sadly shakes his head and says I am doing this all for you and I really hate to but I have to raise property taxes.

DO YOU TRUST THIS MANS PROMISES?

really...
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November 27, 2012
do most of you realize that for entry level employees we're only talking about $28 a pay check - a little over $ 700 more a year. After 5 years, dont they deserve $14 more a week??? Come people
I16
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November 27, 2012
Sounds like Joe, will fall for anything'

RINO

Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy said Lee assured him the raise was sustainable, and he supports Lee’s plan.

Watcher...
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November 27, 2012
I agree with you about RINO, Joe Dendy.

Now JD wants to jam Saxby Chambliss down our throats by inviting Chambliss, another RINO, to the Cobb GOP meeting, Saturday morning.
Johnny Tremain
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November 27, 2012
This is how RINOs are born. Perfect example. You take some Republicans, give them a taste of power by letting them spend other people's money, and they turn into Democrats or RINOS.

Happened to Tim Lee, Helen G., and most of the power players in Cobb i.e. the CIDs and the Chamber. Joe Dendy needs to get his nose back onto his face and realize this county is beginning to look like Washington. People are hurting, yet those in power are acting like we're at the height of prosperity around here. I am a Republican, but this is exactly why I will not be involved in the local party.
D.G. in Clarkdale
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November 27, 2012
Does anyone need any further proof that Timmy Lee isn't a friend to the taxpayer? The fools who voted for him need their collective heads examined.....Geez
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