Get our e-newsletter

Lee touts fractional SPLOST

Tim Lee

Fearing the fractional SPLOST legislation he’s wanted for the last few years was at risk of not passing again this session, county Chairman Tim Lee paid a visit to the Capitol on Tuesday to make some noise.

At issue is a bill by state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) that would allow counties and cities to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.

The House passed HB 153 after a revote earlier in the session and the Senate approved it last week with an amendment by the Senate Finance Committee chaired by state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb). That amendment would allow for multiple special purpose local option sales taxes to be levied at the same time, provided they add up to no more than 1 percent.

But when the Senate’s amended version returned to the House, Carson objected.

Lee said since resistance to the fractional SPLOST option was strongest in the House, Carson didn’t want to risk another vote in that chamber.

“I think Carson, the first time he brought it forward it lost in the House and he had to get it reconsidered and voted on again,” Lee said. “He just didn’t want to take the chance of going back for another vote. I don’t think he really cared about the amendment, the process was just going to be challenging for him.”

Since Thursday is the last day of the session, Lee drove down to the Capitol to urge Hill to see Carson’s original bill safely through the Senate.

“I told him it was my belief if it went back to the House for a vote, it would not get either considered or through and we’d lose another year, and is there another alternative of passing what’s currently been approved by the House, and would you please consider that, so that’s where we left it,” Lee said.

The bill has been the target of the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents cities. City advocates oppose the bill because they want the full 1 cent per dollar a SPLOST collects and nothing less, critics say.

Hill said Tuesday night he agreed to pass Carson’s bill without the amendment on Thursday.

“The clock is running out, and to make additional changes requires the House and Senate to go back and forth to agree to certain changes, and that becomes challenging in the last few hours of the legislative session,” Hill said.

Hill’s abortion bill passes

Hill scored a victory Tuesday when both the House and Senate voted in favor of his bill prohibiting teachers and other state workers from having an abortion paid for under the state health benefit plan.

SB 98 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed into law or vetoed.

“I think it’s good for the people of this state that their taxpayer money is protected from paying for abortions,” Hill said. “We have not changed any provision in the abortion law, we just joined with about 24 other states to declare that their taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions in this state.”

State employees have the right to pay for an abortion if they choose, they just have to pay for it out of their own pocket, Hill said.

“Except for protecting the life of the mother we’re prohibiting the use of taxpayer money to perform abortions in the state,” he said.

Deal used his executive power to remove abortion coverage from the state health benefit plan, but Hill is trying to put it into state law so that if a Democrat is elected governor, the Democrat couldn’t put the option back in the plan.

Between 2010 and Jan. 1, when Deal’s change took effect, about 2,000 abortions were paid for by the state plan, Hill said.

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) has opposed the bill because it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest victims. Evans has used the example of a baby that was brain dead or dead in the womb.

“If a woman on a state health benefit plan faces this difficult situation, but cannot afford to pay for an abortion without her insurance coverage, she will be forced to carry the baby to term even though the baby has already passed away,” she said.

But Hill said the bill includes a medical emergency exemption that would cover that scenario.

“Removing a dead baby is not considered an abortion under the law because the baby’s already died,” he said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, March 19, 2014.)

Lee: World watching Cobb County

With the Atlanta Braves moving here, county Chairman Tim Lee told a group of 600 business and community leaders Monday the world was watching Cobb County.

“They all want to know what the Atlanta Braves now know,” Lee said. “That Cobb County is the place to do business. We have well-positioned ourselves to achieve the long-term goals of increasing jobs, increasing investments and constructing a progressive economic impact for Cobb County. It is imperative that we all take part in its execution and success.”

Lee gave his State of the County address at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre as the crowd enjoyed breakfast. A Braves’ baseball cap sat perched beside each glass of orange juice.

The chairman called 2013 a very good year, as investments in the county began to reach pre-recession levels with new home starts, remodeling and property values.

“All indications are that Cobb County has turned the corner and in 2014 we are on our way to very healthy levels for all revenue streams,” he said.

Lee compared Cobb to neighboring cities and counties.

Cobb’s millage rate in fiscal 2013 was 10.91 compared to Fulton’s 10.48, Gwinnett’s 13.75, DeKalb’s 21.21 and Atlanta’s 23.48 mills.

Cobb has 4,499 full-time employees, compared to Fulton’s 5,084, Gwinnett’s 4,469, DeKalb’s 7,256 and Atlanta’s 8,487.

And Cobb’s total operating and capital budget for fiscal 2014 was $815.2 million compared to Fulton’s $866.1 million, DeKalb County’s $1.3 billion, Gwinnett’s $1.5 billion, and Atlanta’s $1.9 billion, he said.

The county’s conservative planning and quality staff continue to see it granted a triple-A rating from all three credit-rating agencies for the 17th year, one of only 39 counties in the U.S. to have that rating.

“In addition to the Atlanta Braves, we brought in 16 new business announcements, more than 1,087 new jobs and investments of $41 million just last year,” Lee said, naming Infosys and Talenti as examples.

“An indicator that the business climate is good in Cobb County is the decisions of Randstad staffing and Arylessence to expand their existing business,” he said.

Lee didn’t mention last week’s resignation of public safety director Jack Forsythe, but he did pledge to have the best people, training and equipment and the most competitively compensated public safety team. He intends to ask the Cobb Board of Commissioners to hire Fire Chief Sam Heaton as the new public safety director at today’s board meeting.

Commenting on the talk after the program, Mike Plant, executive vice president of business operations for the Atlanta Braves, said Lee’s comments demonstrate the strength of the community and county.

“They have a focus on creating really economically viable partnerships that create impact for the citizens here that produce certainly a lot of job opportunity, and also we’re going to be a big part of that quality of life going forward and for a long time,” Plant said. “We didn’t make this move without a lot of thought, not only short term/long term, but we’re really pleased every day makes more and more sense for this to be our new home, so we’re happy to be here.”

Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci said it was good news to hear how well the county government was doing.

“It would be nice to say that the district is doing as well as the county, but we’ll work as a board to continue to service our community and our students, so we’re ready to work,” Angelucci said.

The school district has been struggling to plug what Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says is a $79 million funding shortfall.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, January 13, 2014. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Lee World watching Cobb County )

Registration open for State of the County address

Tim Lee

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee will present the annual State of the County address 7:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 13, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The event is hosted the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce. Online registration, available atwww.cobbchamber.org, ends Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The presentation will also be replayed on Government Access Channel TV23 and available via Video On Demand on the county’s Web site, www.cobbcounty.org.

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Robocalls on Braves stadium tie up Cobb County phones

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

A series of robocalls sent from a local tea party leader has some people upset in Cobb County.

The call asked people to press 1 if they were against any tax dollars for a new Atlanta Braves stadium. After the button was pressed, the call was transferred to elected officials.

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said the calls jammed up the county’s switchboards, creating a potential safety problem.

“Some life-threatening event may have occurred…that we can’t get to now because we’re being choked up,” Lee said.

Rather than apologizing, Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots said the robocalls will continue until Cobb County elected officials pay attention to voter concerns.

“They refuse a referendum. They’re making the decision, these five people,” Dooley said. “There will be other calls that go out. This is just the beginning.”

Lee says the deal will not go to a public vote.  The “Memorandum of Understanding” between Cobb County and the Braves” was released on Tuesday. It spells out details to fund a new $692 million stadium and mixed-use facility on 60 acres at Interstates 285 and 75. Cobb County would be responsible for 45 percent, which is about $300 million of the costs.

The money would come from a new fee assessed on business in the stadium district, a new car rental tax, hotel motel taxes and re-allocation of existing revenues  — but not from Cobb County homeowners.

“The taxpayers in Cobb County will see absolutely no increase in taxes whatsoever,” Lee said.

The Cobb County Board of Commissions is expected to vote on the proposal on Tuesday. Dooley promised that opponents of the measure will pack the meeting.

November set to honor Native Americans

Tim Lee

Chairman Tim Lee presented a proclamation to local members of the Daughters of the American Revolution during the past week. The document declared November to be National American Indian Heritage Month in Cobb County. The history of American Indians is an area of emphasis for DAR. This includes financial support for American Indian colleges and scholarships.

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Chairman to hold town hall Thursday

lee-town-hall

Town hall meetings offer the public a chance for face-to-face input with their elected officials. Cobb County prides itself on providing these opportunities for feedback and questions on a regular basis.

Chairman Tim Lee will host his next town hall meeting for all Cobb County residents 7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 24. The meeting will be held in the BOC Room on the second floor of 100 Cherokee St., Marietta. For more information, call 770-528-3305 or visit cobbcounty.org/lee.

Cobb Commissioners say they wouldn’t take a pay raise

Tim Lee

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee

County employees and elected officials could be in line for a 3 percent raise under a proposed budget, but commissioners say they wouldn’t take it.

The county’s $816.7 million budget sets aside about $5.2 million for “merit raises” based on positive performance reviews.

But commissioners aren’t subject to the same reviews as employees.

Elected officials can opt to take the pay increase or not. If they choose to get the extra cash, the raise would go to the Georgia General Assembly as local legislation and be subject to approval by the Legislature.

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said he won’t take the pay increase.

Lee says it’s up to voters to evaluate the commission’s performance.

“I believe that I have more than earned it,” Lee said.

Still, Lee says he wouldn’t take the raise until the millage rate falls to its pre-Great Recession levels.

Though the millage rate that sets property taxes would decrease under the proposed budget by 0.2 mills to 7.32 mills, it still hasn’t returned to its 2011 rate of 6.82 mills.

That 0.2 mill decrease is a savings of $6 annually for a home valued at $100,000, $14 for a $200,000 home and $38 for a $500,000 home.

The highest earning member of the Board of Commissioners is Lee who gets $131,231 annually. Southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid is the lowest paid at $42,583. They also receive other perks such as a travel allowance.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb, and Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents northwest Cobb, agree it’s not a good idea to take a raise.

“As much as I think we need to recognize employees for the work they do, it shouldn’t be on the back of a millage rate increase,” Ott said.

Birrell echoed that statement.

“I think as an elected official, it’s not for the money you go into this to be a public servant,” Birrell said. “Even though it’s part-time pay and a part-time position, so to speak, it really could be considered full time with the amount of time put into it.”

Goreham, too, will stick with her current salary.

“As I did during the last budget time regarding commissioners’ raises, I elected not to receive a raise and I’d be inclined to do the same at this point,” Goreham said.

Cupid supports raises for employees but said it’s “difficult to substantiate” a raise for commissioners.

County employees who passed evaluations also received a 3 percent raise last year, and all commissioners turned down the raise.

The county’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and the proposed budget is scheduled for adoption on Sept. 10.

Water transfer raises eyebrows

Lee has proposed transferring about $18.2 million from the water fund to the general fund for the new budget compared to the $17.2 million the county is transferring from the water fund in the current budget. The general fund is what pays for most county services.

Critics say that practice could lead to higher water rates because taking away funds leaves the water system trying to catch up.

Birrell, northeast Cobb commissioner, wants to see Lee’s recommended transfer lowered, not increased.

She disapproved of the practice during last year’s budget process and says she again wants the county to have a plan for how it will stop the transfers.

“I’m asking that we reduce that by a percentage, at least a percentage, every year until it’s gone and we’re not depending on it any more,” Birrell said.

It’s a legal practice, she says. The county can take up to 10 percent from its water fund for its general fund under its approved financial policies.

Birrell has a problem with transferring the money that was paid by water customers.

She would not say how she’ll vote on the budget if the transfer isn’t lowered to her liking and said she’s looking at “everything really hard.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Nikki Wiley, September 04, 2013. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Cobb Commissioners say they wouldn t take a pay raise)

Possible ‘rain tax’ in county forecast

Tim Lee

Cobb County residents have endured a summer of near-record rainfall. Now comes word that the county government is eyeing a new “rain tax” to fund infrastructure improvements.

The proposal is included in a draft of the county’s strategic plan, which is scheduled to be voted on this fall by the Board of Commissioners.

The plan suggests exploring a stormwater utility fee that would be billed to all property owners to fund stormwater projects.

County spokesman Robert Quigley was vague when asked who inserted the proposal into the strategic plan draft.

“Not sure who brought it up late last year when we had a series of round-table discussions on the strategic plan,” Quigley said.

Passing the plan does not necessarily mean the fee would be implemented because the plan is used as a guide and is not legally binding.

The list of stormwater projects continues to grow each year, said county chairman Tim Lee.

“We’re not able to keep up with stormwater in the county,” he said.

Exploring the fee, Lee said, will become more of priority over the next 18 months when the county begins its budget process for the fiscal year 2014-15, which begins Oct. 1, 2014.

Larry Savage of east Cobb, who opposed Lee in the last county election, says it’s just another opportunity for revenue. He, along with opponents of the fee across the state, call it a “rain tax” and isn’t convinced it’s needed because stormwater services already have a funding source that comes from county water fees.

“I always get a little nervous when the government wants to open up a new revenue stream … It would just be another form of taxation,” Savage said.

Part of a trend

The county commission wouldn’t be the first local Georgia government to levy this kind of a utility fee.

It wouldn’t even be the first in Cobb.

Powder Springs passed a stormwater utility fee in March 2012, citing trouble keeping up with state mandated inspections, said Mayor Pat Vaughn.

The city charges $3 each month to the average homeowner, and bills the fee annually along with property taxes.

It’s made a difference, Vaughn said, calling it a “tremendous benefit.”

“It’s allowed us to hire an employee, two of them actually, to inspect the properties and start making the repairs that need to be made,” she said.

About 40 miles south of Marietta, Fayette County has been collecting the fee for the last seven months.

Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown said the county’s aging infrastructure was causing problems underground that no one knew existed.

“We had roads collapsing because the culverts under them were old and decayed, and they started to let go,” Brown said.

The county’s budget didn’t account for major replacements of stormwater infrastructure, and the county turned to the stormwater utility fee.

But it wasn’t easy.

“One problem we faced at the onset is the citizens were just not aware of what the problems are,” Brown said.

Brown admits the county did a poor job of telling residents why it needed the extra cash and experienced a backlash from property owners who didn’t want to pay another bill.

“If Cobb is going to do this, they need to make sure they have an adequate educational campaign,” Brown said.

In Fayette County, the fee is levied on all property owners, including nonprofits and government agencies. Brown says the typical home sitting on an acre of land with a standard driveway pays between $12 and $20 a year.

Still, it’s not enough to fund everything the county wants to do. Fayette voters will weigh in on a special purpose local option sales tax that would fund more stormwater projects later this year.

“Now, we’re in the process of not only having the stormwater utility but also having a special purpose local option sales tax that would help us maintain that system,” Brown said.

How it works

Now, stormwater projects are funded with water fees. Establishing a separate utility fee would provide another revenue source.

“It’s such an isolated cause and effect,” Lee said of the need to separate funding for water and stormwater projects.

Steve McCullers, director of the Cobb County Water System, says he wants to get ahead of the problem before too much costly damage is done.

“We had so much growth in the late ’70s and in the ’80s, and a lot of those pipes are getting old and are getting close to the end of their useful life,” McCullers said. “So we’d like to be able to put some money into the system to catch the ones that are failing and to catch some others before they are failing.”

Many local governments that levy this fee based it on the amount of impervious surface — surface rain cannot seep through — they own. Impervious surfaces are considered to be anything from a paved driveway, wooden deck or a roof.

Lee says he isn’t sure how the fee would be levied or how it would be billed because it hasn’t been explored in detail yet. Some local governments tack the fee onto a water bill, bill it separately or add it to a property tax bill.

Past rejections

This isn’t the first time Cobb has considered a fee to fund stormwater maintenance and improvements.

When Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens was the chairman of the county commission, he brought it up twice, once in 2003 and again in 2006.

The fee considered in 2003 would have been between $36 and $60 for residents each year and $108 and $180 for business owners.

At the time, county officials said the fee was needed to comply with stricter regional and federal environmental regulations.

Officials considered the fee again in 2006. That time it was projected to be about $3.24 per month or a 10 percent increase on the resident’s annual water bill.

Both proposals failed.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Nikki Wiley July 19, 2013. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Possible rain tax in county forecast)

Thumbs up for chickens in backyard

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=chicken&ex=2#ai:MP900431017|

A Kennesaw-area woman got the go-ahead from the Cobb Board of Commissioners to bring chickens into her backyard Monday just five months after the board loosened restrictions on raising fowl.

Holding her toddler in her arms, Summer Brown told the commission she wants to keep chickens in her home’s .39-acre yard to teach her four children — ranging in age from almost 2 years old to 11— responsibility and to educate them about where their food comes from.

“I grew up around chickens, and I would like to give that to my children as well,” Brown said, calling chicken “great pets.”

The board approved Brown’s request by a 3-2 vote with Chairman Tim Lee and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents part of east Cobb, opposing.

Lee and Birrell also opposed revising the county’s chicken ordinance in February.

A group of residents led the charge to make the ordinance friendlier to homeowners living on smaller lots after Joseph Pond of east Cobb was told he had to get rid of his hens.

The previous ordinance only allowed chickens on a lot at least two acres. Now, residents living on less land can pay $150 to apply for a zoning variance with the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

One hen will be considered for every 5,000 square feet of land. That could give a resident on a half-acre lot the ability, if approved, to keep four hens.

Lee, who says the county’s previous ordinance was adequate, doesn’t want to see hens taking over yards in residential areas where neighbors live close to one another.

Birrell echoed his statements.

“I still feel the two-acre minimum is appropriate,” she said.

The first variance was approved in June for a family near Austell.

Keeping chickens teaches responsibility, Brown said, because the animals must be fed, given water, and eggs must be collected.

Remembering a small child she once babysat who believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows, Brown told commissioners she wants her children to know how the food they eat gets to their dinner table.

“I hope to be able to connect my children more with their food sources,” Brown said.

She compared it to having a backyard garden.

“I also believe that having chickens is important for us in becoming more self-sufficient,” Brown said.

She plans to keep chickens in her yard in a moveable pen, called a chicken tractor, to allow the animals fresh grass to eat.

“I think that this is a very manageable situation for chickens in a small backyard setting,” Brown said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Nikki Wiley July 17, 2013. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Thumbs up for chickens in backyard)

Millage rate to be reduced

At the Tuesday, July 23, Cobb County commission meeting, Chairman Tim Lee will propose a decrease in the county millage rate. The rate determines how much a property owner pays in annual property taxes.

This millage decrease is the first step in a five year commitment to reduce property taxes. The reduction is possible because the local economy continues to improve and tight spending controls within the county budget.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the BOC Room on the second floor of 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

(Source: CobbLine)

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!