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FRONT PAGE - DECEMBER 8, 1999 - HOMER, GA

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Kids' Photo deadline This Friday
The deadline for turning in photographs of children for MainStreet Newspapers' 33rd annual special Christmas kids section is this FRIDAY, DEC. 10 at 5PM. No photos will be accepted after this time.
Photographs of children ages 8 and under are featured free of charge in the special editions planned for the week of Christmas. The children must live in Banks, Madison or Jackson counties. The name, age, address and parent's name must be listed on the back of each photo.
Photos may be turned in at any of MainStreet's offices in Jefferson, Homer, Danielsville, Braselton or Commerce. They may also be mailed to: MainStreet Newspapers, P.O. Box 908, Jefferson, Ga., 30549.


CHECKING OUT SANTA

Andrew Whitfield gave Santa a close inspection when he made his appearance at the Christmas celebration Sunday night in Homer. The historic courthouse was filled with excitement when Santa came in following the Christmas caroling. He visited with children and refreshments were offered. See page 10A for more photos. Photo by Angela Gary


READY FOR Y2K

Banks officials say county
ready for Y2K
BY SHERRY LEWIS
When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, Banks Countians won't need to worry about the loss of water or gas services or about getting through to a 911 operator, at least according to county officials. Banks County officials say the county is Y2K compliant.
"There have been many questions in the national media concerning Y2K," board of commissioners chairman James Dumas said. "We do not anticipate any problems but we will be prepared."
One of the most important moves by the county was to upgrade the computer systems which have been "vendor certified" to be Y2K compliant, according to Dumas.
The 911 computers were changed out not only for Y2K compatibility but to meet state regulations for cellular phones. The center now has equipment to track cell phone calls.
The sheriff's office has also upgraded the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to track criminal histories. Also, the emergency medical services has upgraded its defibrillators for compliance, Dumas said.
The computers have also been upgraded to meet the taxing and financial management needs. The court services computers have been upgraded as well, Dumas continued.
Banks County has also purchased a generator with a fuel capacity to run for two weeks at the water treatment plant.
"There will be no disruption of water services," said Dumas.
The county has also made arrangements with a fuel supply company so there will be no disruption in propane or gasoline, Dumas continued.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

BOE millage rate up, BOC rate down
BY SHERRY LEWIS
Banks County taxpayers will pay a millage rate of 19.70 this year, up almost two mills over last year.
The Banks County Board of Education increased its millage rate from 10.4 to 12.4, while the board of commissioners lowered its millage rate from 7.25 to 7. Citizens must also pay .05 mills for county hospital bonds and .25 mills for Georgia state tax.
In a BOE meeting Wednesday, acting superintendent Deborah White cited construction costs at the new high school and additional staff costs as the reasons for the increase.
"We are operating on an extremely tight budget," said White.
White said the BOE needs $929,465 to cover construction costs at the new high school. That amount does not include lights or a sound system for the auditorium, she explained.
The BOE also needs $251,032 to cover new staff salaries and benefits due to increased student enrollment, she continued.
With the two-mill increase, there will still be a shortfall of $48,970, which could be covered by mid-term adjustments and/or an increased percentage of tax collection, White continued.
The BOE budget totals $13.7 million.
BOC SETS MILLAGE
While the BOC dropped its millage rate from 7.25 to 7, the actual tax income by the county will be increasing by almost 12 percent. The tax digest, the net value of all taxable property in the county, grew by 16 percent over last year, topping $362.2 million. The BOC expects to take in an additional $268,400 despite the lower millage rate.
The BOC budget totals $6.3 million. Only $2.5 million of that is funded through ad valorem tax, according to BOC chairman James Dumas.


BOC ups 911 starting pay
BY SHERRY LEWIS
The starting salary for new employees at the Banks County 911 center has been increased.
The salary was increased to $8 an hour from $7 an hour. 911 director Lisa McClure told the Banks County Board of Commissioners about her dilemma to keep employees once they are trained.
"We are a training center," she said. "They can go somewhere else and make $11 an hour. You can't hire at $7 when some fast food restaurants are hiring at $7."
The BOC agreed to the increase, but the action didn't come without some stipulations. The new hires must sign an 18-month contract and be prepared to pay for their training if they leave before that contract has ended.
McClure also asked the BOC for more money to give her current employees a raise.
"The faithful people need to be rewarded," said McClure.
BOC members Pat Westmoreland and Ernest Rogers told McClure that they realize the need but asked her to hold off on other increases until after the first of the year.
Westmoreland said that salaries of other county employees would be addressed in the next budget year.
"I think that is something that we're gonna have to address, not just here but in other areas," Westmoreland said. "This is just the beginning."