By Debi Holcomb, Fannin Sentinel Staff Writer
Fannin County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday, Nov. 26. Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway presented the monthly financial statements. Tensions between her and Post I Commissioner Earl Johnson in the earlier held budget hearing seemed to spill over into the regular meeting. One slide showed $732.476 which Gazaway explained was money given to Fannin County to pave roads from Georgia Department of Transportation. Helton also noted not on the slide a safety grant for $63,000 the county received. Johnson asked if the county hadn’t also received a $60,000 grant for striping and was told yes. Johnson was concerned that those two grants were not shown.
Indicating the road department, Johnson said to Gazaway, “So you are saying he is $175,000 over budget. Okay, that’s a lot of money to say that someone is over budget when actually the county didn’t spend that.
I understand you have to keep it separate but just for kicks and giggles, could we not have a number that truly represents that?
LMIG money came from the state. So, we actually haven’t spent that much money, but by the looks of it, Public Works is over by $175,000. I don’t think, I mean most people may understand that, but if a person didn’t know what LMIG is, it makes it look like Public Works is over by $175,000 and no one said anything to him about being over. That’s just my point. I understand you have to keep it separate. The best thing I can do is just sit here and not comment on your budget report.” (LMIG is Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant money from Georgia DOT.)
Gazaway completed her presentation without addressing Johnson’s concern.
Afterward, Johnson asked Public Works Director Zack Ratcliff, “Did you know you were $175,000 over? It’s what the report says. You need to stop spending money.
Unless I can get a report that says you are not $175,000 over you probably don’t need to work tomorrow. If you are $175,000 over, you probably don’t need to work tomorrow.
Either that, or we start getting reports that makes sense Commissioners. One or the other.”
The BOC moved on to other agenda items, then settled on the 2020 proposed budget vote. Johnson asked again if the striping grant was part of the total LMIG and Helton said no, the $60,000 should have been added.
Johnson replied, “So that number is not right. We really truly are not $175,000 over budget in Public Works, I don’t think. Do y’all feel that we are?” Helton answered as far as the SPLOST dollars are concerned, we are. Johnson explained his question further, “When you take the money that we are getting from the state, we truly are not, because the state’s money is not county money.” Helton replied, “Well, I guess if you look at it from just a general approach to it, we’re not.”
Johnson said, “I just come up off the top of my head and I’m not even here every day that we got another grant from the state for $60,000 and it’s not even on your report.” Gazaway responded, “Mr. Helton asked me to just put the LMIG on there.”
Johnson said, “OOOH, okay, all right. But it’s generated revenue. It’s the same thing.
Every time I say something, there is such a great…that’s why I am not going to vote on the budget tonight Commissioners. I don’t trust one number on one sheet of paper setting in front of me. So, you asked me my input Mr. Patterson. I don’t believe in one number that’s on here. We’re told that we are $175,000 over budget but truthfully, real money expended by county expenditures, we’re not. But see, you have to decipher all this because of the way our CFO decides to report on these numbers. So, since I don’t feel comfortable with a single number that you have provided me with, I won’t be voting on the budget. It will be up to the two of you. If you feel comfortable.”
Patterson asked, “Commissioner Johnson, what can we do?” Johnson replied, “We can provide real, accurate reports. We can have real, accurate fund balance numbers.
We can act like every county around us. We can act like a simple business. An ice cream business. How much ice cream they sold, how much they bought and what’s left? It doesn’t matter what kind of a business. This is a county. It is very serious to me. And if you two feel good with those numbers, a report that shows our Public Works Department is over budget because we’ve been that busy, I would advise you Mr. Ratcliff not to touch another road.
Because I am not in agreement with you going $175,000 over. I am not in agreement with it now. I won’t be in agreement with it next week.”
Helton told the two post commissioners that the board is required to approve the budget by the first meeting in December. He was ready to move forward, the two posts voted to postpone the vote until December 10.
Johnson said, “I don’t want anyone leaving here thinking I’m trying to be a, you know… This has been an ongoing thing with our financials for quite a while now. It’s not like this is some new thing with me. I don’t like ‘abouts’ or ‘I think sos’, I like real numbers.
Because I live with them every day in my life. I just expect that here in a government.
I expect it. I expect here more than at home or my company. It is going to be everything I can possibly do to get it to that point here. If it means delaying this for two more weeks, at some point we gotta stop having ‘abouts’ and ‘I think sos’ and have real numbers.”
There was no further discussion and executive session was not required.