News from Jackson County...

January 17, 2001


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Area basketball teams at or near the top in region standings

BASKETBALL teams from Jefferson and Jackson County may have experienced a difficult night Tuesday, but all four teams have succeeded in placing themselves firmly in the midst of their respective region and subregion races.

Pinning Panthers prowl in Patriot
After playing second fiddle in its last three tournaments, the Jackson County wrestling team marched on Lexington Saturday and came away with the Patriot Classic's championship trophy.

Massey, Bearden Boost Tigers Over Wesleyan
The Commerce Tigers established themselves as one of the top basketball teams in Region 8A when they beat Wesleyan last week, but the pecking order will be more clearly established after this Tuesday's (Jan. 16) game with the Buford Wolves.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Well water non-existent for some Madison Countians
The milk jugs brought in with water from Athens are evidence of a hard fact for James Hardman and his family - the well is dry.

Planners approve rezoning
Madison County planners recommended approval of a controversial rezoning request by a vote of four to two at a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
Citizen complaints aired at BOC meeting
A Banks County man appeared before the Banks County Board of Commissioners Friday morning to discuss their concerns with trash on the roads and debris left in the road after brush was cleared.

Banks County to receive ARC grant for $300,000
Banks County will receive an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant for $300,000 to expand water and wastewater services to Banks Crossing.


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PREPARING FOR COLD


Todd Herman, Jefferson, is shown splitting kindling for firewood to prepare for the colder weather which is forecast for the area later this week. A possibility of snow showers is forecast for late Saturday.


Tax digest tops $1 billion
For the first time ever, the net tax digest for Jackson County has topped the $1 billion mark. Jackson County's tax digest is $1.076 billion, up 35 percent from the year before. The increase is largely due to a massive reassessment effort in the county and to the results of industrial and residential growth.
By far the largest segment in the digest is from residential homes. Adjusted for exemptions, residential property makes up 41 percent of the county's total taxable property. Business property was the second largest segment at 33 percent, while agricultural property was at 17 percent. Motor vehicles made up the rest at nine percent of the total.
But while those numbers give the broad picture, the types of property within the various tax districts in the county vary widely. That's especially true with the county's three public school districts, where there is a wide difference in taxable property.
The Jefferson City School System, for example, gets 65 percent of its tax dollars from businesses and only 27 percent from residential property. In the Jackson County School System, however, those numbers are reversed - that system gets only 22 percent of its tax money from businesses and 45 percent from residential property. The Commerce City School System falls between those two with 47 percent of its tax money from businesses and 42 percent from residential property.
There's also a huge difference in those systems' dependence on agricultural property as a share of their tax base. In Jefferson and Commerce, only two percent of the taxable property is agricultural. But in the Jackson County School System, 22 percent of its digest is agricultural, and that would be larger were it not for the conservation use program.
CONSERVATION USE
One of the largest impacts on the county's tax digest is the continued growth in property classified under "conservation use." That category allows owners of agricultural property to get a large tax break if they agree to not sell the land for a specified period of time.
Well over one-third of the county total acreage, 37.5 percent totaling 82,430 acres, is now under the conservation use program.
While that has encouraged landowners not to sell property for development, it has also had a huge impact on the county's tax digest, especially that of the Jackson County School System. Those 82,430 acres would normally be assessed for a total of $112.16 million, or about $1,360 per acre. But under the conservation use program, that property is valued only at $15.87 million, about $192 per acre.
That does not affect the school systems in Jefferson or Commerce since very little property in those towns is under the conservation use program. But for the Jackson County School System, it means around $95 million is taken off its potential tax digest.
In real dollars, that amounts to 1.6 additional mills the county school system had to levy this year on other property to make up for land put under conservation use.
JEFFERSON LARGEST TOWN
Based on the size of the tax digest, the City of Jefferson is by far the largest town in Jackson County. Jefferson has a total digest of $188.4 million, 17.5 percent of the total county digest. The City of Commerce's digest is $108 million, about 10 percent of the county total.
The biggest impact on Jefferson has been its industrial and commercial growth. Jefferson now has over half, 53 percent, of the total industrial tax digest in Jackson County.
For the Jackson County Tax Digest table, see this week's Jackson Herald.


The Heat's On: Next Utility Bills To Be Shockers
Commerce utility customers, particularly those who heat their homes with natural gas, can expect something of an unpleasant greeting from the city next week.
The second round of January utility bills (for December usage) goes out Jan. 20, followed 10 days later by the third cycle. For people who have not been keeping up with the stories of the cold winter and record high gas prices, the bills may be a huge shock.
City cycle one goes to a lot of commercial and other customers outside the city limits. It went out Jan. 10, according to city manager Clarence Bryant.
"Just looking at cycle one, we had almost three times the gas volume in dollars as we did in November," Bryant said.
Homeowners can expect bills for gas to be up 50 to 60 percent or more over last year's bill for the same time period, thanks to prices being up by 51 percent. However, record cold temperatures will likely result in bills that are double or more.
"This was the coldest December in 132 years, I read somewhere," Bryant said. "The December period of time is when school is out and the kids are home and people are cooking more and they have Christmas lights on. It's an expensive time anyway."
Although a consumer's bill may be 51 percent higher for the same amount of gas consumption as last year, the city's profit on that sale will be down more than 20 percent. That's because the city shaved its profit margin to try to hold prices down as low as possible.
Those who heat their homes with electricity can also expect a major spike in their bills. The rate they're paying won't be much different than last year, but the amount of electricity they used could be much higher.
"If you have a heat pump, it probably ran on emergency heat 10 days in a row," Bryant said. "Those bills may be way up too."
In spite of the high gas costs, natural gas remains the more efficient heating fuel. Natural gas would have to cost about three times what residents are paying for it now to be equivalent in cost per BTU to electricity.


CABA Swears Never To Hire Athens Band
The Athens band, The Chastains, has never performed at a Commerce Area Business Association event and it looks like it never will.
At its January meeting last Wednesday, the CABA not only rejected the idea of hiring the band in 2001, but also voted to not ever hire it.
The CABA had retained the Chastains to perform at the Dec. 31, 1999, New Year's dance, paying half of the $5,000 fee in advance. The CABA later called off the dance out of concerns over small attendance because of the Y2K fears. The Chastains kept the deposit, as the contract provided.
During 2000, there was talk that the band would give the CABA a discount for performing at some function during the year, but no arrangements were ever made.
Recently, one of the band members called Downtown Develop-ment Authority executive director Jan Nelson about the possibility of The Chastains performing for a CABA dance this year for $2,000, half of which would be paid in advance. There was no indications that was a discounted price.
"What would be the use of that?" asked Terry Minish, who made a motion "to never use them again."
"I agree," said Rob Jordan, president, and the group passed the motion.
Nelson said the band member told her that the reason they did not refund any of the deposit was that The Chastains were unable to book, on short notice, another event for Dec. 31, 1999.
In other business, Nelson called the Secret Santa Workshop held last December "an incredible success" because vendors sold more than $1,200 in gift items priced at $10 or less.
She also reminded the group that the annual Easter parade and egg hunt will be held Saturday, April 14.
CONCERT CHANGES
Jordan told the group that the 2001 City Lights Concert will be held earlier this year because its chief sponsor, country music legend Bill Anderson, has another commitment the last weekend of June, which is the traditional concert date.
Jordan said Anderson will announce the concert lineup in early February.
"Honest, I have no idea who it will be," he said.


 January 24, 2001
2000 Jackson County Building Permits

All permits issued in Jackson County in 2000.



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Sanders named recreation director
Ricky Sanders is once again heading the Jackson County recreation department.
County manager Skip Nalley reported at Monday night's Jackson County Board of Commissioners meeting that Sanders had been hired from a field of 41 applicants. He said that Sanders "stood out way and above the other applicants."
"I'm real excited to be back and make the recreation department a quality department for the citizens of Jackson County," Sanders said.
Sanders served as the Jackson County recreation director from 1990 to 1994. Prior to returning to Jackson County, he served as the women's head softball coach at Belmont University.
He was director of recreational sports and women's head softball coach at North Georgia College and State University from August 1994 through August 2000. At North Georgia, he was the first head coach for women's fast-pitch softball. He led the Lady Saints to a 40-18 overall record and a Georgia-Alabama-Carolina conference championship in 2000 with an 18-2 conference record. His overall record in four seasons was 134-97.
Sanders' awards and honors include being named the GACC "Coach of the Year" in 1998 and 2000 and being named the NFCA NAIA east region "Coach of the Year" for 2000. He is a graduate of Jackson County High School and North Georgia College and State University, where he received a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in recreation administration.


BOC seeks to alter county bid process
Less than three weeks after a new form of government was implemented in Jackson County, the board of commissioners wants to change part of the legislation that governs the board.
The BOC agreed Monday night to seek local legislation to take out the requirement that the county seek bids for all purchases over $1,000. The resolution calling for the legislation stated that this amount would create an "unnecessary and expensive burden" to the county. The resolution also calls for the commission to establish its own ordinances for how bids are taken.


Tax bills to be sent later this week
Jackson County taxpayers should be getting their tax bills in the mail within the next week.
Tax commissioner Don Elrod said Monday that the bills are expected to be mailed out later this week. His office has already been taking payments from those who wanted to get their bill paid by the end of 2000.
The holdup in sending out bills came from the larger number of appeals due to the major countywide reassessment last year.


Fire districts to net 10.5% growth in tax dollars
The 10 fire districts in Jackson County will get an additional $83,100 this year, a 10.5% increase over 2000. The districts will collectively get $878,250 this year, not including money budgeted by the City of Jefferson and City of Commerce for their municipal departments.
Leading the pack in fire funding is the West Jackson Fire District, which will net $231,400. That district has the largest tax digest and the highest millage rate of the 10 districts. However, no budget for that district was turned in to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
At the other end is the Plainview Fire District, which will get only $33,750. That district's tax digest is the smallest in the county and its millage rate is fourth from the bottom.
In their budgets, two departments greatly underestimated their expected income. Nicholson has a budget showing $68,156 in projected tax income, but will take in a little over $93,000. Jackson Trail Fire District budgeted $81,840 in projected tax income, but will get over $92,700.
Only two fire districts, Plainview and Arcade, showed any leftover funds from the previous years.
Each fire district in Jackson County, except for the East Jackson Fire District, has its own board of directors which sets the budget and millage rate. The East Jackson Fire District operates under an agreement between the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the City of Commerce for the Commerce Fire Department to cover property in a specific area around Commerce.
The North Jackson Fire District also failed to submit a budget to the county.
For the Jackson County County Fire Districts table, including the milage rates and expected net for the year, see this week's Jackson Herald.