Jackson County commissioners approved a millage rate cut this week.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved cutting the county's millage rate from 9.166 to 8.95 for unincorporated areas of the county and from 10.813 to 10.447 mills in incorporated areas.

The board also approved its budget (General Fund, special revenue and other funds), which totals $88.1 million and calls for using $2.4 million from reserves. Typically, however, the county takes in more than it spends and hasn't had to tap its reserves since the end of the Great Recession.

The county's General Fund budget totals $58.81 million, up 14% from FY2020.

Highlights from the budget are:

• The largest area of spending in the budget is for public safety at $27.3 million.

• Among new sources of income in 2021 will be a "payment in lieu of taxes" from SK Battery, which is building two EV battery manufacturing plants in Commerce. The total PILOT payment will top $3.39 million. $1.4 million of that will be used to pay the county's debt payment for the property. The remainder will be distributed to the BOC, City of Commerce and Commerce City School System. The BOC will get $570,000 of that for its budget.

• The county is getting $2.3 million in federal CARES Act funds. The use of those funds was also approved at the board’s Sept. 21 meeting. See section below.

• 2021 will be the first full year of operations for the county's new agricultural center. The center's budget is set at $305,000 for the year. 

• The year will also be the first full year the newly-renovated Historic Courthouse will be used. A part-time position may be added for that.

• County employees will receive a 3% cost of living raise in the budget.

• The budget includes seed money for the possible creation of a city-county land bank authority. Georgia law allows land bank authorities to acquire blighted property, forgive tax liens and redevelop the property for resale or some other use.

• One new full-time position and additional expenses for the county's elections department. The state's new voting system requires more training, supplies and workers, according to the budget documents.

• Additional help in the county's finance office to handle financial information from the county's various volunteer fire departments. Record keeping issues and documentation have long plagued the departments and county auditors.

CAPITAL PROJECTS

The county has a number of new capital projects slated for 2021 including:

• A $1 million new facility at the county's waste transfer station.

• An expansion of the county's animal shelter at $750,000.

• The completion of the new Gum Springs recreation park at $750,000.

• The purchase of greenspace for passive recreation at $500,000.

• Road improvements at $650,000.

• New security cameras at the jail at $500,000 (from funds in the CARES Act.)

CARES ACT FUNDING

The BOC also approved a handful of expenditures using federal CARES Act funds.

The county received $2.25 million in CARES funds, along with additional surplus CARES money that the City of Nicholson didn’t use.

Most of that funding will be used for public safety, including:

•1.5% pay adjustment for public safety employees, $180,000

•10 new sheriff’s office vehicles, $390,000

•a new ambulance for Med 8, $255,000

•payout for essential hours worked during the shelter-in-place period, $200,000

•public safety radios, $500,000

•jail security cameras, $500,000

•personal protective equipment stockpile, $100,000

•payment to the volunteer fire departments (which weren’t eligible for direct CARES funding), $200,000

Those expenses will require some amendments to both the current year’s budget and to next year’s budget.

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