News from Banks County...

NOVEMBER 13, 2002


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OPINIONS
Angie Gary
Phil Vassar show
full of fun and energy
He runs and slides across the stage and then jumps on top of his piano. He makes several more laps across the stage without missing a beat before jumping into the middle of the audience. He runs into the crowd, going up and down several aisles and stopping to serenade a few fans.

Rochelle Beckstine
Swimming in October?
For the second time in my life I found myself in a pond because of Ole’ Agnes Scott.

Frank Gillespie
Flag bit Barnes, will Perdue do better?

It was amazing to watch. Soon to be former governor Roy Barnes spent $20 million on a campaign for governor. He lost to a $10 scrap of cloth!

Zach Mitcham
The ‘ESPN-ization’ of sports
I will not spike the ball. (So 80s).
I will not flap my arms like a chicken or other dirty bird. (So 1998).


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Leopards will end season at Union County
Banks County will step out onto the gridiron for the final time this season, going against struggling Union County (3-6, 2-5) in Blairsville.


Neighboorhood News ..
JACKSON COUNTY
Sheriff points to need for new jail during BOC tour
Sheriff Stan Evans led members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners through the cramped jail Friday morning pointing out the need for a new facility.

BOC approves 2003 $30 million budget
Tax rates to hold steady
For the first time ever, the total Jackson County government budget will top $30 million next year. But tax rates will remain basically the same, owing in large part to a growing tax digest that will reap $1 million in additional revenue for the county.

Deal Near On Building For Lanier Tech
City, Jackson County, BJC Medical Center Hope To Get Old Wal-Mart Building

Kids’ Christmas photos taken through Dec. 2
The annual children’s Christmas section will be published in The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News and The Banks County News on Wednesday, December 18.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Local veteran honored Sat.
World War II veteran Merritt Segers was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his valor in the line of duty in a brief ceremony at Danielsville United Methodist Church Saturday morning.

County leaders look to slow down motorists
County leaders want motorists to slow down in Oakbend and Windsor Heights subdivisions.

Grace restored
The Frank Anthony homeplace in northern Madison County was a showcase home when it was built circa 1918, and thanks to the handiwork of Ferrell and Betty James, it’s a show place once again.

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FALL SCENERY

As cooler weather has moved into the area, the leaves on area trees have begun changing colors across Banks County. Above, fog rolls off the foothills alongside Hwy. 441 going through the north end of the county near Baldwin.

Loss of chief appraiser delays county’s tax digest
The county’s tax digest will come a little late this year.
After a six-month stint without a chief tax appraiser, the tax assessor and tax commissioner’s offices are working to play catch-up on getting the digest ready.
The county needs the digest to set the millage rate and collect property taxes. No one is sure right now when that will happen.
“We hope to turn it around as soon as we can,” tax commissioner Margaret Ausburn said.
Chief appraiser Andy Scroggs left in November of last year to take a job with the state department of revenue (DOR). A replacement wasn’t hired until this summer, putting the office behind in getting the digest ready.
When Scroggs left, commission chairman Kenneth Brady said the board of assessors advertised to find a certified appraiser for the position.
However, after interviewing several applicants, the county couldn’t find anyone with high enough certification who wanted the job, Brady said. The board of assessors sought and received permission from the DOR to hire an appraiser who could go to school to get certified.
In June, the county named Connie Garrison to fill the chief appraiser vacancy. Brady said Garrison, who was an appraiser for a real estate company, got her class I certification and is completing her class II requirements.
In June, she began working with a contracted appraiser to get the tax digest in order.
“Now Connie is up to speed and she’s really done an excellent job to get everything ready,” Brady said.
Ausburn said the county has sent out assessment notices to property owners and must give them 45 days to file an appeal on reassessment values. That 45-day period ends December 4.
After then, the BOC and the BOE can set the millage rate based on the 2002 tax digest.
If either board decides to raise the millage rate, they must hold public hearings before the rate becomes final. The DOR will also have to approve the county’s tax digest.
Depending on the length of the process, the county might not send out property tax bills until after the first of the year. Property owners will have 60 days to pay them.
Ausburn said she had sent a letter to the DOR requesting permission to accept voluntary property tax payments before the year ends. Those payments would be the same as property owners paid last year.
Once this year’s millage rate is set, the tax commissioner’s office would then bill early payers for the difference in 2001 and 2002 taxes. The office would also send out refunds to anyone who overpaid.
However, Ausburn said she wasn’t sure the state would approve her request, and as of Monday, she hadn’t gotten an answer yet.
VEHICLE AD VALOREM TAXES
The late digest could also hamper the county’s ability to collect motor vehicle taxes from residents whose car tags expire in January and February.
Without a tax digest, the county has not been able to set a millage rate for 2002 and can’t send out 2003 tax bills to vehicle owners.
County attorney Randall Frost filed a petition in Banks County Superior Court to authorize the tax commissioner’s office to collect motor vehicle taxes for January and February 2003. The petition comes before a judge November 20 at 11:30 a.m.
If the judge grants the county’s request, the county can collect motor vehicle taxes for the first two months of the year. The tax amount will temporarily be based on the 2001 millage rate.
Once the 2002 digest and millage rate are approved, the county will then begin collecting taxes based on the new rate.
At that time, vehicle owners who have already paid their ad valorem taxes will be able to apply for a refund if they paid more than they should have.
However, they will not owe any additional money if they underpaid the ad valorem tax.
Without the court order, Brady said some vehicle owners might not be able to renew their vehicle tags, putting them in violation of state law.
By law, vehicle owners can renew their tag anytime between 31 days before and midnight of their birthday.
If the petition is denied or the millage rate isn’t set soon enough, the county can’t send out tax bills and some residents with a birthday in January might not be able to pay their ad valorem tax and renew their tag.
“Several other counties have had to do this,” Brady said. “This is just the procedure if the tax digest is not in on time. There’s nothing anyone could have done.”


White resigns as superintendent
Banks County School System superintendent Deborah White announced Monday that she would be leaving the system after 28 years when her current contract expires in June.
White read from a prepared statement Monday night at the Banks County Board of Education meeting stating she would be seeking employment outside of Banks County because of irreconcilable differences with the board. She said the children deserve a quality education without personal agendas and egos.
In a letter addressed to “Mr. Chairman,” White writes: “For the past month, it has been apparent that the members of the board of education and I no longer share the same vision. It is obvious that we have reached an impasse. I no longer believe that the support and cooperation necessary for effective leadership exists. After many agonizing hours and with a heavy heart, I am compelled to make the decision that after my contract expires on June 30, 2003, I will be leaving the employment of the Banks County School System.”
No word of her resignation was mentioned at the Thursday work session where the board members and White acted as they usually do—laughing and joking with one another in between items on the agenda. The first hint of a problem came after the board’s closed session Thursday night. Board chairman Ron Gardiner added the closed session to the end of the agenda when he arrived at the meeting. The closed session lasted for nearly an hour. Afterward, the board members filed out of the conference room silently and quickly.
White read the two-and-a-half page statement before the agenda was approved for Monday night’s meeting, pausing twice to take a deep breath and to keep herself from crying.
White said she appreciated the “opportunity to serve the students and citizens of Banks County for the past 28 years as a teacher, curriculum director, assistant superintendent and superintendent for the past three years.”
White also read a passage from Chicken Soup for the Soul. It is a short paper written by a child to his teacher, but White also addressed the passage to leaders. The child asks his teacher for help in building a “prity fewcher jest for Mommy and for me.” The child wishes to make his mother happy and she had told him that it takes everyone working really hard to make a child’s future the best it can be. White said the passage clearly reflects her vision.
“Until my contract ends, I will meet its terms and continue to give 110 percent to support and diligently work for the students and staff in the school system. To the teachers who work so hard each day to provide quality instruction, words cannot express my gratitude: so I will simply say ‘Thank You.’ To my central office staff, administrators, teachers and other staff members, none of these accomplishments [listed below] could have been possible without your support and commitment. Keep up the good work! The students and employees of Banks County schools will forever be in my heart and in my prayers. May God bless and keep each of you.”
She said during her tenure as interim superintendent in 1999, the projected ending balance was only $5,000 in a 13.7 million dollar budget.
“With close supervision, a lot of prayer and no natural or mechanical disasters, we made it through the year in the black,” she said. “Through good budgeting and monitoring of the funds, I can proudly say that we ended the 2001-2002 school year with a balance of $2,483,336.71. Banks County school system is currently on a firm financial foundation. This financial foundation can provide a quality instructional program, competitive pay for staff and meet all mandates without burdening the taxpayers if the budget and building program are managed wisely.”
White also noted other accomplishments of her administration, including: increases in test scores on GKAP, CRCT and SAT; a focus on improving achievement levels of each student; providing support and training for administrators, teachers and staff; the acquisition of instructional hardware and software and training in using technology to support instruction through grants at no extra cost to the school system; a five-year plan to improve reading skills which is already evidenced in higher test scores; five-year school improvement plans developed and implemented by the faculty and staff of each schools; more time spent by administrators observing in classrooms and providing instructional support; pay increases for all staff which White states “must continue to remain competitive with other systems during the drastic teacher shortage in Georgia and the budget should permit these increases”; adding 22 new teacher positions; construction of an agricultural facility at one-half the cost of the first bids and beginning the new stadium and athletic facilities; a five-year plan for new construction and renovations that will eliminate the need for mobile units and provide room for expansion and special programs if followed; and implementing changes and directives from the board in a positive manner without undue controversy.
She states: “Although I will be leaving behind these accomplishments and other improvements, my heart and commitment will continue to be with the students, staff and citizens of Banks County. Therefore, I stress the importance of continuing and supporting these accomplishments, other improvements and the following initiatives that are in the beginning stages: 1. Reading Endorsement for K-5 teachers at no cost to the teachers; 2. Training for “Learning Focused Schools” with Max Thompson; 3. Cooperatively working with Hart County, Rabun County and Dawson County school systems to prioritize the curriculum into Essential, Important and Compact to better meet the needs of the students, state and federal mandates; 4. Analyzing and sequencing the K-12 math curriculum; 5. Training for all teachers, especially special education teachers, to meet requirements of the No Child Left Behind Legislation; 6. Managing and supervising the building program and all facility funds in order that all new construction and necessary and major renovations to the 4-8 school can be completed, mobile units eliminated and the expansion of the day care and Pre-K programs. Yes, if managed properly there should be funds available for baseball and softball fields, but classroom needs should be met first.”
After White finished reading her statement, Gardiner said White’s years of service were appreciated by the board.
The board ended its regular meeting Monday night by going into a closed session to discuss personnel matters for 34 minutes. After reconvening, Gardiner announced the board’s decision to begin “looking into options to hire another superintendent.” The meeting was then adjourned.
BOE approves bids to finish stadium for $1.6 million



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Clark accepts Baldwin police chief position
The Baldwin City Council approved the permanent appointment of interim police chief Lamar Clark at Monday’s meeting.
Clark was at first unsure if he wanted the position when Frank Andrews vacated it last month.
“I had to think about it,” he said. “And when I did, I decided to take the position if it was offered to me.”
Clark was one of a number of applicants, said Mayor Mark Reed.
“We wanted someone familiar with Baldwin and Lamar has many years of law enforcement experience,” Reed said. “We were happy he chose to accept the position.”
Clark said: “I look forward to building a new police force with a new direction. You’ll see more of a presence in the neighborhoods of Baldwin. I hope to rebuild the department’s image.”
Clark has been hiring officers to fill positions and now has five officers.


Kids’ Christmas photos taken through Dec. 2
The annual children’s Christmas section will be published in The Jackson Herald, The Commerce News and The Banks County News on Wednesday, December 18. The papers are accepting photographs through 5 p.m. Monday, December 2.
GUIDELINES
Photos of children older than 8 years old will not be published. Also, the child must live in Jackson or Banks county; photos of grandchildren will be published only if the child resides with the grandparents or guardians in one of those counties.
Photos submitted must have the following information along with the child’s photo: the first and last name and age of the child, as well as the parents’ names, their city of residence and phone number.
Black and white or color photos can be used, but no Polaroids or photographs printed out from a computer onto laser paper will be accepted, as they do not reprint well.
Photos may be dropped off at or mailed to any of the newspaper offices and may be picked up there after the publication runs in the paper.


BOE approves bids to finish stadium for $1.6 million
The Banks County Board of Education approved 15 bids to finish the high school stadium for $1.6 million, nearly $300,000 over the amount called for in the SPLOST vote.
That amount does not include the cost of specialties (toilet paper holders, paper towel dispensers, grab bars), heating and air conditioning unit, casework, lockers and grading and paving the curbs and gutters. Superintendent Deborah White said she felt the school system could complete those items at a lower cost than was bid.
The most expensive item in the stadium bids is the concrete at the building and the sidewalks and the masonry work which total $569,780 and $159,000 respectively. The bid was awarded to ECJ Concrete Finishing. The lowest item was the resilient flooring, carpet and base, at $344.
White said the most competitive bids were for the septic system which was awarded to Higgins Construction for $49,841.
Board member Neal Brown said he was surprised there were not more local people who bid for the project.
White said the weather has caused some delays. As yet, the stadium lights have not been moved by Georgia Power. Once they are moved, the hill will be graded and the bleachers poured.
In a related matter, the board approved the capitol outlay project application for the new middle school construction. The system expects to receive $513,333 of maximum class size funds for the project, plus another approximate $500,000 over a five-year period because of the maximum class funds. The $500,000 is part of the state “Do Right” funds.
“We’ve been working on this plan for some time now and we’re fortunate to have these monies available for the middle school project,” said White.
In an unrelated matter, the board also approved the bid from Atlanta Freightliner for three 72-passenger diesel in-line-six buses for $51,006 each and a total cost of $153,018 including tinted windows and acoustic ceilings.
White said last year Atlanta Freightliner added the options at no charge and the bus drivers feel there is a big difference in the sound on the buses with the different ceilings. She said also that the tinted windows make a real difference in the heat level on the bus.