Oconee County Commissioners last (Tuesday) night approved a $49.9 million Fiscal Year 2018 budget based on a projected increase of 6.2 percent in sales tax revenue and an 18.4 percent growth in real property tax revenue.
The budget assumes the Commission will hold its millage rate steady at 6.68 and that growth in real property value will produce the increased property tax revenue.
Some of the increased growth in property tax revenue will come from changes in property usage, with developed property producing more tax revenue–and demanding more services--than undeveloped farmland.
Some of the increased valuation results from the improved local economy and its effect on property values.
In other action Tuesday night, the Commission, in a 3-2 vote, denied a special use request by Chad and Marilyn Forehand to be allowed to operate a landscaping business on five acres currently zoned for agricultural use at the northwest corner of Union Church Road and New High Shoals Road.
The staff of the county Planning and Code Enforcement Department had recommended against the Forehand special use request, but the Planning Commission, in a 6-5 vote, had recommended approval.
|Forehand Landscaping Business|
Following the public hearing last night, in which three citizens spoke against the special use request and one spoke for it, Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes made a motion to approve the request. Commission Mark Thomas seconded the motion.
That motion failed when Commissioners Chuck Horton and Mark Saxon voted in the negative, and Commission Chair John Daniell broke the tie by siding with Horton and Saxon.
A subsequent motion to deny also ended in a 2-2 tie, and Daniell joined Horton and Saxon in voting for denial.
Andrew Cohen, who lives at 1050 Southwind Drive, just south of the New High Shoals Road and Union Church Road intersection, said the request by the Forehands to operate a business on their property was incompatible with the county’s long terms plans for the area.
Cohen also referenced the county’s citation against Chad Forehand for operating his landscaping business without a business license and for operating the business without the needed special use permit.
Chad Forehand pleaded guilty to the two code violations in Oconee County Magistrate Court on Sept. 9, 2016, and was fined $600, according to Court records.
The court suspended $300 of the fine pending Forehand's purchasing a business license for 2016 and 2017 and obtaining a special use permit for operating the business at the property they own.
Forehand was given until Dec. 31, 2016, to obtain the licenses and the special use permit.
In other zoning action on Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a request by Stonebridge Partners LLC to rezone approximately 40 acres just east of Butler’s Crossing for a single-family residential subdivision.
The subdivision will be opposite Daniells Plantation subdivision and will be designed to be compatible with it, with homes facing Stonebridge Parkway.
The BOC also unanimously approved an eight-lot single-family subdivision on 9 acres on Hog Mountain Road southeast of U.S. 78.
The Planning Commission had recommended approval of both of the rezones.
At its public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget on May 23, county Finance Director Wes Geddings had indicated that the budget was to be balanced without drawing on any of the county’s reserve funds.
Geddings did not provide details on revenue sources, and I requested them at that hearing.
On Monday, County Clerk Kathy Hayes, at the request of BOC Chair Daniells, forwarded to me a detailed accounting of revenue projections for the FY 2018 budget.
Geddings is projecting that revenue from the county’s Local Option Sales Tax, which is to offset property taxes, will increase from $6,262,037 in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, to $6,650,000 in Fiscal Year 2018, or by 6.2 percent.
Geddings is projecting that revenue from real property taxes will increases from $9,300,000 in the current fiscal year to $11,009,298 in the next fiscal year, or 18.4 percent.
The county’s overall budget, as approved, shows a growth of 3.4 percent, from $48,268,544 to $49,920,904 in FY 2018.
The General Fund Budget, which covers the county’s constitutional officers and most of its departments, is to increase 7.4 percent, from $25,084,716 to $26,943,955.
All of county revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax and property taxes goes to support the General Fund.
The county’s Utility Department, which generates its own revenues through water and sewer fees, is projected to generate $9,600,000 in revenue, up 5.1 percent from the current $9,130,900.
Included are residential water and sewer rate increases averaging out to 1.5 percent.
I was unable to attend the meeting last night.
In writing this post, I have relied on notes from Sarah Bell and two others who did attend the meeting.
Bell did make a video recording, which I will edit, upload and embed in this post as soon as I am able to obtain it from Bell. (I added the video on June 11, 2017.)
OCO: BOC 6 6 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
I'm glad that Forehand was denied the special use. They were intentionally misleading and figured that they could get away with it. Imagine how may so called "barns" would be built if this had been approved.
So they didn't touch their precious slush-fund...oops: "Fund Balance."
Last I heard, it was a generous percentage of budget, well-above minimum suggested and much better than a lot of less wealthy counties. Wonder what it's for? I do know it was tapped for the ball fields not too long ago.
Commissioners get to crow about not raising the millage rates. Meanwhile, increases in sales taxes and property values (read: higher property tax) are relied upon for increased income. Pretty good divination. Too bad about property values in complete control of Tax Assessor.
The millage rate is a political tool to use in campaigns, and is not the real story of the bill arriving in the mail in time for the holidays.
-- I am NOT impugning the character of any individual in the Tax Assessor's Office, headed by a Constitutional Officer. I am pointing out the clear control that office has on the real numbers.
Why a land-owner guilty of a violation without ever repairing the violation was even considered for his plea is a mystery.
I'm glad our County has money in the bank for a rainy day and doesn't feel the need to squander every penny it collects. I hope the County holds a firm line on the Land use plan AND is careful to NOT succumb to the allure of the kind of growth that has destroyed Gwinnett County. To me, Oconee County is the last hold out for traditional Georgia.
After observing the last few BOC meetings via Lee's videos,I see that Mark Thomas and Bubba Wilkes can not stop from accepting any and all re-zones. Why do we have a Comp plan/land use map? They are ready to "let's make a deal" despite any information given or previous denials from staff or planning commission.
It makes it very discouraging to think careful planning will ever be applied by those two.
You can always count on good ole "bubber" to do whats wrong. He and Thomas were quick to recommend approval.
Allen Skinner, chief appraiser, is head of the Property Appraisal Department. He reports to the Board of Commissioners.
Jennifer Riddle is the elected county Tax Commissioner. Skinner does not report to Riddle, and Riddle does not report to the BOC.
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