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Cobb County earns Triple AAA bond rating 19 years in a row

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Chairman Tim Lee announced this week that for the 19th consecutive year, Cobb County has once again received a triple AAA bond rating from Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.

Lee said, “As we are beginning to recover from some of the most difficult financial times of this generation, it is gratifying to know that the lean, efficient stewardship of Cobb County finances are recognized by the financial world.”

The AAA rating from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch represent the highest ratings awarded by each of these agencies. Cobb County is one of 40 or so counties in the country to hold this prestigious designation. Congratulations to Jim Pehrson and his management team for their consistent hard work, implementation of conservative budgeting practices and for maintaining the triple AAA rating in these recent evaluations.

According to the reports, the ratings reflect Cobb County’s:

  • Strong economy;
  • Strong management, with “good” financial policies and practices;
  • Strong budgetary performance, with operating surpluses in the general fund and at the total governmental fund levels;
  • Very strong budgetary flexibility, with an available fund balance in fiscal 2014 of 19% of operating expenditures; and a
  • Very strong institutional framework.

The rating agencies carefully examined the County’s tax base, financial policies, debt burden and much more.  These AAA ratings are a sign that we are making wise, responsible and prudent spending decisions on behalf of Cobb County residents. They also distinguish the important benefits of Cobb County’s highly educated workforce, low unemployment rate and our ability to attract new business and expand the ones already located here.

The reaffirmation of these ratings recognizes Cobb’s tradition of maintaining long-term financial stability while efficiently funding services that enhance the quality of life of all Cobb residents. And, it could not come at a more appropriate time as we enter the early phases of the FY 2016 budget process.

“I understand that the preservation of this rating depends the Board of Commissioner’s support of continued budget discipline,” said Lee.  The Standard and Poor’s report speaks directly to Cobb County’s strong budget management, performance and flexibility. During the rating process, agencies review the County’s budget to ensure that:

  • Recurring expenditures are funded by recurring revenue;
  • The County is decreasing unfunded liability levels in the pension fund; and
  • There is a healthy reserve fund.

The budget Lee presented to the Board of Commissioners for consideration:

  • Meets all pension funding requirements and recommendations;
  • Maintains a 15% reserve fund; and
  • Relies solely on recurring revenue to fund services.

Most importantly, it decreases property taxes and maintains the Board’s unanimously supported commitment to carry out the multi-year plan to significantly enhance public safety.  The proposed $197 million investment in public safety represents 56 percent of the total general fund budget. This appropriation will put an additional 40 police officers in the community, double the number of annual police academies and support the implementation of 10-hour shifts, which results in better police coverage at peak hours.

The triple AAA ratings are a very strong vote of confidence in Cobb County financial practices and the proposed budget represents our commitment to maintaining this prestigious financial standing.   We are in an excellent position to move forward with our plans for improving and strengthening our economy in order to make Cobb County THE place to live, work and Play ball! Click here to view the proposed budget.

(Source: Newsletter of Chairman Tim Lee) 

 

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Lee Proposes 2015-16 Budget

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On Wednesday, Chairman Tim Lee proposed to the Board of Commissioners the annual budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2015 and ending September 30, 2016. Of the proposal Lee released the following statement:

I am proud to propose a strategically funded, conservative budget that places emphasis on the county’s top priorities- public safety, economic prosperity and opportunity and the cost efficient delivery of the most high quality services.

The balanced $783.8 million operating budget includes a $350 million general fund budget and is based on a net taxable digest that is projected to increase by 3.21 percent. Based on this projection, 2016 would be the third consecutive year of steady increases in the digest. This is something that gives us confidence that the property values are improving and is a great indicator of what is to come.

Beginning in 2010 and throughout “the Great Recession,” financial markets and personal incomes fell, real estate values plummeted and tax revenue collections followed suit.  During this time, the Board of Commissioners made tough decisions to balance the budget including employee furloughs, a millage increase and 10 percent across the board cuts that impacted services. But, we made a commitment that as the digest recovered and revenue collections returned to “normal,” restoring the millage rate would be our first priority, even before reversing service cuts.

Just five years later, I am proud to present a budget that restores the millage rate to the pre-recession level of 6.82, absorbs unfunded federal healthcare mandates, includes a laser focus on enhancing public safety and ensures that Cobb County taxpayers are the beneficiaries of our sound, prudent financial practices.

Perhaps the most direct benefit to Cobb residents is the priority this budget places on public safety.  The proposed budget includes a $197 million dollar investment in Public Safety and courts. This is 56 percent of the entire budget.  Cobb County hired 40 police officers last year and this budget includes funding for an additional 40 officers.  To ensure the recruitment and retention of the best and brightest, this budget strengthens our education pay policy and supports shift differential pay in both the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department. In an effort to enhance the speed in which we backfill positions, the Public Safety department is now conducting four academies annually, compared to two classes in the past.  Finally, the recommended budget supports the implementation of 10 hour shifts which results in better police coverage at peak hours.

This budget commits more than $11 million to the library system, almost $20 million to Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and $15 million to the Department of Transportation.   It also maintains a fund balance reserve at 15 percent which is higher than the 10 percent recommended standard.

The growing tax digest is a sign that we are making real progress toward gaining back the ground we had prior to the recession.  However, it still has not reached 2009 prerecession levels. Additionally, we have absorbed more than $1.1 million in expenditures as a result of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. This means that the development of this budget required tough choices and prioritized spending.

In 2010, when the millage rate was 6.82 percent, the transfer from the water department to the general fund was 10 percent.  This budget brings the current transfer rate of 7 percent back to 10 percent. I had a choice to make- either reduce property taxes or decrease water transfers.  I decided to recommend saving money for property taxpayers, with a commitment to reduction of the water transfer as a top priority as the digest continues to grow.  I have been working hard to support economic development in Cobb County.  I am confident that our economic development success will continue to increase our tax base. In fact, as the digest is reviewed quarterly, I will make it a priority to the direct surplus revenues toward the reduction of the water transfer. 

Additionally, outside of public safety and two positions in the County Attorney’s office, the proposed budget does not include any new personnel requests and institutes a growth freeze by unfunding 90 vacant positions.   It postpones the implementation of the pay and classification study and does not include any departmental operating or capital requests. 

Cobb County’s sensible budget prioritization and prudent financial practices has helped us emerge from one of the worst financial crises of our country’s history, well-positioned and ready for the possibilities of the future.  These practices have also consistently garnered a bond rating of Triple AAA – the highest rating available and one that only about 40 counties in the entire nation hold.  The budget being put forward mirrors the progress we have made during the past five years.  Together, we have demonstrated leadership and made difficult choices that reflect conservative budgeting principles and a steadfast commitment to public safety as the top priority in Cobb County.

 

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Cobb’s Robust Growth Set to Continue

 

As Cobb County enters the final quarter of the fiscal year, I am pleased to report that we have enjoyed a year of progress on many fronts and I remain as enthusiastic as ever about the county’s momentum.

There was robust growth in the tax digest. The net taxable digest increased by 3.22 percent from $24.7 billion in 2014 to just over $26.4 billion in 2015.  Just this week, the Board of Commissioners held the first 2 of 3 public hearings to consider a reduction in the general fund tax rate, from the current 7.32 mills to 7.12 mills in 2015.

Earlier this month, I announced my intention to keep my commitment to reducing the millage rate back to pre-recession level of 6.82. This will be part of my 2016 budget proposal to the Board of Commissioners.

Cobb County’s strong financial standing is a result of a history of sound financial management, prudent fiscal policies and conservative budgeting practices. Our tax base is solid and the county levies the lowest millage rate of the five core counties in the Atlanta region. At 15 percent, we maintain a very healthy fund balance reserve.

Another major indicator of a community’s financial stability and fiscal management is reflected in its bond ratings. Since 1997 Cobb County has had a bond rating of Triple AAA- the highest rating available.  As one of about 40 counties in the entire nation to carry three triple-AAA bond ratings, this designation allows the county to access the lowest cost of borrowing available and deliver projects at the lowest cost possible to taxpayers.

My first goal is to always protect and respect Cobb County taxpayers. As we begin to prepare for our next fiscal year, I will continue to ensure that our government is responsive, efficient and transparent. I will remain focused on giving our taxpayers the best possible value. I will remain committed to delivering excellent services effectively and efficiently so that Cobb County continues to be THE best place in which to live, work and play ball.

(Reprinted from the newsletter of Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee)

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Stay informed by attending town hall meetings

 

Chairman Tim Lee will hold his next town hall meeting in District Three 6:30 p.m.Thursday, July 23, at Piedmont Baptist Church, 570 Piedmont Road, Marietta.

His town hall events, which rotate through each district each month, offer residents a chance to find out the latest information about progress in their community and ask questions. Chairman Lee also has town halls scheduled in District Four on Aug. 27 and District One on Sept. 24.

For more information, including a complete listing of upcoming meetings and locations, visit the chairman’s Web page at cobbcounty.org/lee.

 

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Save the date: Chairman’s next town hall

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Chairman Tim Lee will hold his next town hall meeting in District Three 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Piedmont Baptist Church, 570 Piedmont Road, Marietta. His town hall events, which rotate through each district each month, offer residents a chance to find out the latest information about progress in their community and ask questions. For more information, visit the chairman’s Web page by clicking here.

 

 

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Lee remodels office with new space and people: None of expenditures approved by the commission

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Written By Dan Klepal – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee is remaking his office, both literally and figuratively.

Since 2013, Lee has twice remodeled his office in the county building for a combined $34,500; he hired a deputy chief in January at $105,000 a year; and now he’s in the process of creating a position for a web-savvy employee who will take the place of Millie Rodgers, an assistant in the chairman’s office since 1992.

And none of that spending received approval from the full board of commissioners.

The latest office remodel — which cost $22,437 to convert a closet to office space for Lee’s new deputy Kellie Brownlow and install a new glass door — used cash from three different county funds, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under Georgia’s Open Records Act.

That includes $3,000 in savings that had been dedicated to buying furniture and equipment for the county’s senior services center in Powder Springs, the records show.

The county’s Biennial Budget Book for 2015-16 says that expenditure “increases or decreases … for a department or fund must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.” The document then gives examples:

  • The appropriation of additional revenue, such as … fund balance, to support operating expenses or fund a major capital project.
  • The re-appropriation of funding, or transfers, from one fund to another.
  • The appropriation of funding for additional employees, both full-time and part-time.

County finance director Jim Pehrson said the remodeling projects didn’t need commission approval because excess funds covered the cost. “There is not increase or decrease in budget and there is no transfer of funds with this project,” Pehrson wrote in an email.

County Attorney Deborah Dance also said County Manager David Hankerson can authorize spending of up to $50,000 without board approval.

Neither Lee nor Hankerson answered questions for this story. Hankerson, who was sent a list of nine questions May 20, including whether he approved the expenditures, referred all questions to Brownlow. Lee ignored a question about why he remodeled the office twice in two years.

Brownlow said Hankerson approved the remodeling expenditures.

While Hankerson wouldn’t answer questions, he did take interest in Lee’s most recent remodeling project, according to a Feb. 9 email between county staffers: “Mr. Hankerson asked that you provide him with a construction schedule for the chairman’s renovation as well as the county attorney’s renovation. He made a point that the chairman’s renovation is the priority.”

Lee also hired Brownlow without approval from the commission. She took a vacant position in the community services department and reports directly to Lee. The county had previously told the newspaper that move didn’t need commission approval because Lee was not creating a new position.

Bill Byrne, who was commission chairman for 10 years and lost an election to Lee, said it’s odd that the chairman would remodel his office twice in two years.

“I inherited the office and all I did was move around some furniture. I think it’s very strange,” Byrne said.

Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, has often clashed with Lee over fiscal issues. He said spending money without the commission’s approval “shows a cavalier disregard for the interests of the taxpayers.”

(Reprinted from the AJC.com. Read the original article HERE.) 

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Don’t miss Tim Lee’s town hall Thursday in East Cobb

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Tim Lee will be hosting a town hall meeting in District Three from 6:30 – 8 pm on Thursday, March 19 at East Cobb Senior Center, 3332 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta. This is a good opportunity to share information.

Lee’s next town hall will be April 29 in District Four. For more information, call770-528-3305.

 

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Don’t You Just Love Cobb County?

I love Cobb County. We all have a lot of reasons to love Cobb County!

That was the essence of my State of Cobb County address last month (which can be viewed on TV23:
Video On Demand: Special Presentation) at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. That’s because in Cobb, we
have every right to feel very good about a number of accomplishments, from our rare, Triple-A rating (now going on 18 consecutive years), to our strong school system. Everything our 4,500 county employees do, every day, is done to provide the best services possible to our citizens and visitors. They do what they do so you get your money’s worth from the taxes you pay – still among the lowest in metro Atlanta, by the way – and so you can, frankly, brag to others about where you live!

Here’s what you, as a Cobb County resident or business owner, have to brag about:

• a citizenry invested in the county’s future
• excellent quality of life
• low cost of living and/or doing business
• low taxes
• strong employment
• effective public safety
• excellent educational opportunities
• ongoing improvements in transportation
• local commitment to parks and recreation
• a county with 18 years of Triple-A ratings from all three credit-rating agencies
• a water system also with a triple, Triple-A rating
• a fiscally conservative government with a healthy budget surplus
• favorable and competitive business conditions
• steady local leadership
• a county with strong relationships with its cities.

That’s a pretty impressive list, don’t you think?

These are on the wish lists for most anyone searching for a place to live or a place to do business. It’s normal; people want to a local government that’s working on their behalf. They want a government that empowers them – through its own efficiency and responsiveness – to accomplish anything they set their mind to.

Cobb County does that. Our employees do a phenomenal job executing beyond expectations and  delivering more for less. Their accomplishments are many, but the rewards are ours.

I love that.

If you love it too, then please tweet #iLoveCobb.

(Reprinted from Commissioner Tim Lee’s e-newsletter 1/19/2015)

 

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Make plans to attend chairman’s town hall in District Two

Open communication is one of the fundamental elements of good government and town hall meetings serve as excellent opportunities to share information, ideas and input.

Chairman Tim Lee is hosting a town hall meeting in each of the four commission districts this year. The next meeting will be held in District Two 6:30-8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 23, at East Cobb Regional Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road.

Other scheduled town halls are planned March 19 at East Cobb Senior Center in District Three andApril 29 at South Cobb Community Center in District Four. For more information, call 770-528-3305 or visit cobbcounty.org/lee.

 

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Cobb Chairman Tim Lee Hires a Deputy Chief

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Kellie Anne Brownlow

 

 

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee announced last month that he will hire Kellie Anne Brownlow to serve as deputy chief to the chairman. At an annual salary of $105,000, Brownlow will manage and coordinate activities for designated projects with county staff, state and local government partners and various boards, commissions and committees to ensure Cobb County’s goals and objectives are accomplished.

She will research and coordinate special projects, media inquiries and Open Records requests received in the Chairman’s Office, respond to public inquiries and represent the Chairman’s Office at various meetings, committees and speaking engagements. Brownlow began her new position on Monday, January 12.

“Our growing role in the region and constant focus on expanding Cobb’s economy demands more and more of my attention,” Lee said. “Adding Kellie to the team and having her expertise in local government  as well as experience with economic development will be a key component in accomplishing more for our county.”

Brownlow brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in economic development, government relations and project management to Cobb County. For the past three years, Brownlow has served as the economic development director for the Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett. In this role, she led the implementation of business recruitment, expansion and retention strategies across five target industries.

Brownlow also has more than 11 years of experience working for the Atlanta Regional Commission; her most recent role as division chief of local government services. At ARC, she was responsible for managing relationships with elected officials, providing services and customized training for cities  and counties in the Atlanta region. Brownlow’s team implemented the Regional Leadership Institute and LINK programs and provided consulting services to local governments in the areas of human  resources, management and operations and comprehensive planning. During her tenure with the ARC, she managed the development of the first comprehensive regional economic development strategy.

Brownlow earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhode Island College. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Gwinnett and  also a Regional Leadership Institute graduate.

 

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