Oconee County will begin bringing its employees back to work with the goal of having county government operating under normal conditions by May 14, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said last week.
The county’s Parks and Recreation Department also will develop plans for a phased re-opening of the county’s parks, Daniell told Commissioners at the agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday.
Daniell cautioned that all plans could be altered as circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change.
Commissioners also got their first look at the expenditure side of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, showing $31.6 million in General Fund spending, up from $30.5 in the current fiscal year.
The presentation did not include Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax spending or spending by the county’s Water Resources Department.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings also said he was not prepared to present the revenue side of the budget, saying he needed more time to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the county’s economy.
Daniell also presented to the Board the latest version of a Joint Use Agreement with the Oconee County Board of Education that will require the county to begin paying the school system–on a phased in basis--for use of school recreational facilities.
Daniell told the Board the county does not plan to reciprocate by charging the school system for use of county facilities.
The Joint Use Agreement is on the agenda for discussion at the Board of Commissioners virtual meeting that begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Opening Of County
Daniell made his announcement about re-opening the county at the beginning of the agenda setting meeting on Tuesday.
Over the next weeks, he said, the county will begin bringing employees back “with the goal of being under normal operating conditions by May 14.”
Daniell noted that Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a Public Health State of Emergency by Executive Order that expires on May 13.
The county will phase in the changes and will modify those plans if necessary, he said.
“Our Parks and Rec Team also is working on a phased re-opening of the parks,” Daniell said. “Once a schedule is finalized we’ll provide notice to our citizens.”
The Board agreed to postpone consideration of two zoning variance requests originally on the agenda for Tuesday until June 2.
Daniell said the shelter-in-place restrictions remain in effect for vulnerable populations through May 13 and he did not want to disallow attendance at the meeting by certain segments of the population.
Finance Director Geddings said the budget he presented includes no new full-time positions, no cost of living increase, and no step increase in salaries.
He said he could not yet estimate the cost of health care because “those negotiations are ongoing,” but he expects an increase in expenditures for that item in the budget.
Geddings said he also did not have final figures for state mandated increases in expenditures for elections
The recommended budget expenditures largely matched requests, with two exceptions.
The coroner asked for a new vehicle, and Daniell said that would be covered through vehicle rotation by Fleet Maintenance.
Parks and Recreation asked for $2.6 million, but the recommendation is that just less than $2 million be provided.
Daniell said SPLOST funds would cover some of the difference.
Geddings made no mention of the millage rate, and County Administrator Justin Kirouac said in an email message on Monday morning (today) Gedding’s presentation “was just a General Fund expenditure snapshot presentation.”
“We haven't completed revenue (or millage) and thus, haven't fine-tuned the expenditures to balance,” Kirouac said.
Joint Use Agreement
The Oconee County Board of Education earlier this year proposed replacing a 2010 Joint Use Agreement between the school system and the county with a new agreement that would allow each party to begin charging the other for use of its recreational facilities.
In March, the Board of Education tabled action on the proposal, but it is now up for consideration again.
Daniell told the Commissioners he had talked “last week” to Board of Education Chair Tom Odom about the new agreement.
The three-year agreement would not include any fees charged to the county for the first year.
In the second year, the county would pay 50 percent of the fee set for local governments.
In the third year, the county would pay 60 percent of the fee.
The County and the Board of Education have had different estimates of how these fees will impact the county Parks and Recreation Department.
Daniell said the county will have to charge higher participant fees to cover whatever those costs are.
The county will not charge the school system for use of county facilities, Daniell stated, even though the agreement would allow the county to do that.
The Board of Commissioners met in the Commission Chamber on April 28, but it restricted access to the Commission Chamber to only 10 persons.
Sarah Bell was one of those invited to attend. She produced the video below.
Daniell made his comments about plans for reopening the county at the beginning of the video.
Discussion of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget begins at 5:58 in the video.
Discussion of the Joint Use Agreement begins at 12:26 in the video.
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