2017-07-20 / Front Page

County gets low rate on SPLOST bond; result of fiscal responsibility, condition

By SPARKY NEWSOME
editor and publisher

The financing of Wilkes County’s $2 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) general obligation bond is expected to take place today, July 20, after the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution last week to accept terms from Regions Bank offering a “very low” interest rate on the deal.

The funding will cover “bonded items” included in the new SPLOST which are already at or near completion and need to be paid for before the actual SPLOST payments begin to come in from the state. The new SPLOST, voted on and affirmed last November, begins this month but Wilkes County typically experiences a lag of about two months in receiving funds.

In particular, the new 911 Center and a number of vehicles for the Wilkes County Emergency Management Agency, Sheriff’s Office, and various fire departments represent the bonded items the general obligation bond will pay for. And incidentally, County Clerk Karen Burton pointed out, the 911 Center was able to be included because most of the labor involved in construction was provided by prisoners at no cost to the county.

The interest rate for the bond was surprisingly low.

“We sent this out to over 15 banks and seven responded,” Andrew Tritt, a managing director for Stifel Financial Corporation in Atlanta, explained. “The lowest rate that came back was 1.8075 percent. That’s good for six years and you can pay it off whenever you want to or you can run it out for six years, it’s your choice. It goes to pay for county projects associated with the SPLOST.”

The financing deal is set up to close today, July 20. “The money will be available to spend on SPLOST projects at that time or to reimburse projects for which the money has already been spent,” Tritt added.

“In terms of rates you’ve seen in the economy, is this exceptionally good?” County Attorney Charles LeGette inquired. “Where does it rate in your experience?”

“It is very, very low when compared to what has been borrowed for counties,” Tritt responded. “Historically, if you look back at the last 15 years, this is cut in half if not more. It’s very aggressive. And of course, all those savings go back to the county and that means you can spend more on more projects.”

LeGette then asked, “Would you say then, in some respect, that it’s a reflection of the fiscal responsibility and condition of our county government?”

“Absolutely,” Tritt said.

All of the commissioners were pleased with the proposed rate and voted unanimously to approve the authorizing resolution.

“That’s very good news,” Commission Chairman Sam Moore concluded.

All of the commissioners, including Esper Lee, Ed Geddings, Charles Jackson, Clem Slaton, and Moore, were in attendance as well as Burton, LeGette, and a number of visitors.

In other business ...

. Moore reported that the 2018 priority list for Georgia Department of Transportation LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) funding will include a 3.89- mile stretch of Broad Road (part of Broad Road was done this year and this is the remaining part) and 2.87 miles on Big Cedar Road. Other roads still on the list for future consideration include Sandtown Road, Ware-McLendon Road, and Sandy Cross Road from Highway 44 to Quaker Springs Road.

Bids for the Broad Road and Big Cedar Road projects are due to be received and opened on August 10.

. Burton reported that sales tax revenues received for the month of May included $88,292.63 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, $57,390.45 in Local Option Sales Tax, and TSPLOST in the amount of $80,928.63.

. Burton reported that tax levy information was expected to be available by Monday, July 17, and Moore said that indications are that the tax digest is “slightly up.”

. Wilkes County EMS Director Blake Thompson announced that the seventh T.J. and Friends Annual Roast will be held at The Pope Center on August 12 beginning at 6 p.m. Thompson himself will be the “roastee” based on his 44 years in EMS.

. Fran Omar reported that he missed the previous meeting of the commissioners due to a family emergency. Upon his return a few days after, not knowing “what all happened and what was all presented.” He found out by reading the newspaper. “I had to wait a whole week,” he said.

He suggested “a block on the website” and “load that stuff up so we can read it.”

“Anyone is welcome to come and look at our minutes at any time,” Moore pointed out. “And we have been working on our website.”

Omar said he had difficulty finding out the status of road maintenance on a state project but had learned that paving would be done in October. Commissioners indicated that they knew about the project and that it may have been mentioned in a previous meeting.

Commissioner Charles Jackson offered his cell phone number. “You can call me any time and I’ll answer all your questions,” he said.

Moore reported that the county’s two trash truck had both been down and that the City of Washington had been helping out. “We are getting it straightened out this week and should be back on schedule very soon,” Moore said.

The next regular meeting of the commissioners will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, August 10, in the Wilkes County courthouse with a work session immediately prior in the chairman’s office beginning at 1 p.m.

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