On June 14, 1736, James Oglethorpe ordered plans to be drawn for a new city to be called Augusta.
Happy birthday to the United States Army, established on June 14, 1775.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution, “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” One hundred years later, on June 14, 1877, was the first observance of Flag Day.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
On Wednesday, after a mega-dollar fundraiser in the morning, Donald J. Trump will headline a rally at the Fox Theater at Noon.
Among the restrictions for those attending the rally: “No posters, banners, or signs may be brought into the event. There is no dress code. No professional cameras with a detachable lens are permitted. No tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, or GoPros. ID is not required for entry.”
Also, banned? Reporters from the Washington Post.
United States Senator Johnny Isakson says it’s time to “declare war on radical Islam,” according to the AJC Political Insider.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said Monday that the shooting rampage that left 50 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando at the hands of a killer who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State proved it was time to declare a “no holds barred” war against Islamic terrorism.
“There’s only one thing you can do with people who will kill themselves to kill you, burn you in a cage on the town square or blow themselves up,” Isakson said during an editorial board meeting at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ve got to kill them first. That ought to be our mantra.”
Isakson, who is seeking a third term in November, said he wants both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to commit to sending more ground troops to Iraq, Syria and other places where the Islamic State and other terror groups are taking root.
“We’ve got to be willing to take the battle to ISIS. Right now, they’re taking the battle to us, and yesterday it was in Orlando,” he said, adding: “Lone wolves are hard to stop, but I will never say never.”
In Lee County, the commission has approved the hiring of a part-time worker to help with the upcoming election,
Columbus is bracing itself for the economic impact of cutbacks at Fort Benning.
Gary Jones with the Columbus Chamber’s Military Affairs Office says the army has gone from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers. It is now in the process of being reduced to 450,000 soldiers. Jones says this is causing Fort Benning to lose 2,400 to 2,800 soldiers.
Sal Nodjomian with the Matrix Design Group began a study in 2015 looking at the economic impact of reducing military troops at Fort Benning. He says Fort Benning has about a $5 billion economic impact a year on the region.
“When you take nearly 3,000 military members and a corresponding number of dependents out of the economy, that’s going to impact the economy by about seven or 800 million dollars,” Nodjomian said.
Lilburn City Council voted to keep the property tax millage rate the same as last year.
Muscogee County Board of Education voted 4-3 against a proposed FY 2017 budget, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
Voting yes were board chairman Rob Varner of District 5, vice chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 and Athavia “A.J.” Senior of District 3. Voting no were Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s lone countywide representative, John Thomas of District 2, Mark Cantrell of District 6 and Frank Myers of District 8. Naomi Buckner of District 4 and Shannon Smallman of District 7 were absent.
The administration’s document shows proposed raises for teachers totaling $3.5 million, but Thomas’ analysis shows the proposed budget reducing teacher salaries by a total of $3.7 million. Thomas asked Thornton to explain the discrepancy.
Myers made a motion, seconded by Thomas, to table the vote on the tentative budget. The motion failed 2-5, with only Myers and Thomas voting for it. Chambers and Cantrell did, however, support them in voting against the original motion to adopt the tentative budget.
Myers said he made the motion because the administration didn’t include a raise of 3 percent for teachers, which Gov. Nathan Deal promised in January.
Lewis previously explained and reiterated Monday night that the district received $1.6 million for raises from the state. That amounts to less than 1 percent in salary increases, so his administration is proposing to more than double that amount, Lewis said.
Senator Josh McKoon, on Facebook, disputed the amount budgeted by the state for a raise in Muscogee schools.
I keep hearing that the Muscogee County School District is claiming they only received $1.7 million to raise teacher salaries when in fact they were allocated $5.7 million of the additional $300 million appropriated in the FY 2017 budget.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioner has outlawed alcohol on rivers in unincorporated parts of the County.
[D]iscussion for the second river item on their agenda revolved around the possibility of banning alcohol and glass on the river. A very different discussion saw people on both sides of the issues. Woody Jensen of the Cartecay River Experience suggested restricting the river to one zippered cooler on the river with people to help control the alcohol without an outright ban. One homeowner on the river disagreed siting several issues of lewd and inappropriate activity.
The Board of Commissioners ultimately elected to approve the alcohol ban, however. The ban is issued immediately with the Chairman Paris set to collaborate with the River outfitters on the construction and placement of signs to indicate the new ban at several locations.
The Cherokee County Commission is working on the FY2017 budget, which may include an increase in tax revenue.
Steve Miller announced he will run for Mayor of Holly Springs in the November General Election, while incumbent Mayor Tim Downing hasn’t announced whether he will run for reelection.
Chalk up two more lives saved by the application of Naloxone after apparent drug overdoses.
Here a SPLOST, There a SPLOST
Former Governor Roy Barnes writes in the Marietta Daily Journal about the history of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referenda in Cobb County.
I was in the state Senate at the time and Al Burruss was majority leader in the House of Representatives. Joe Mack Wilson was a leader on the House Ways and Means Committee. Newly elected [Cobb County Commission] chairman [Earl] Smith asked us if there was a way Cobb County could levy a sales tax so Cobb could fund capital transportation projects to meet the exploding growth of Cobb. On a Sunday afternoon after church Al, Joe Mack and I met at my law office to discuss how we might create a local sales tax for Cobb County and other counties. I acted as scrivener and wrote out on a legal pad the first draft of what we now call SPLOST.
Having been present at the birth of SPLOST and one of its authors — and since I am the only one of the three original authors of SPLOST in life — I think it appropriate to outline what was our intent of SPLOST and how it was intended to be administered.
O.C.G.A. § 48-8-111(a)(1) requires the “purpose or purposes for which the proceeds of the tax are to be used and may be expended…” to be stated in the resolution and referendum question of a SPLOST. The county or school district is bound to expend the funds exclusively for these purposes. However, the law does not require a specific location of the proposed expenditure. For example, if a purpose is set forth for sidewalks, the location of each sidewalk is not required.
The selection of which roads to pave and which bridges to build are all in the discretion of the governmental body which has enacted the sales taxes. Governments may limit themselves to specific projects, but where they have not done so, the government retains the right to use the SPLOST funds and to choose the roads, bridges, buildings and other capital expenditures in a way which meets the purposes of the referendum.
Meanwhile, DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader writes that funds from the upcoming SPLOST in his county should be limited to property tax relief and transportation infrastructure.
Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation to allow DeKalb County voters to consider changes in property and sales tax systems that could provide additional resources for infrastructure and capital investment, if voters agree to a sales tax increase.
The bill, HB 215, depends on the passage of two referenda: The Equalization of Homestead Option Sales Tax (EHOST), to change the current 1% HOST Tax, and to impose a new 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that sunsets when the approved project list is funded. I’ll be willing to put the matter before the voters, but I’m ambivalent about the outcome.
The EHOST would lower taxes for city homeowners an average of $407, because more of their tax bill will be offset by the HOST tax. Unincorporated home owners will only see an average $9 decrease, and because of the shift in advantage to city residents; some may see a small increase in net property taxes. It would also eliminate “HOST Equalization Payments” from the County to municipalities, which skew to the advantage wealthier DeKalb cities, due to higher property values and rates of home ownership.
Since the County has recently shown a lack of capacity in planning large projects, I’m willing to authorize only what’s absolutely and immediately necessary for our first experience using the tax. If we’re successful with a short list of projects over a couple of years, we can bring another list back to voters with the confidence born of a positive experience. If the experiment is unsuccessful, we can let the tax expire and regroup. Street repaving is a good place to start, and is where I’ll put my emphasis as we make these decisions on your behalf.
His fellow Commissioner Nancy Jester sent a message yesterday about two meetings regarding the upcoming SPLOST.
DeKalb County is hosting two meetings to inform and educate the public at large about the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax (E-HOST).
Both meetings will be held Tuesday, June 21 at the Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur.
• Meeting #1, with elected municipal leadership, begins at 2 p.m.
• Meeting #2, an interactive open house for the public at large, begins at 6 p.m.
House Bill 215 authorized DeKalb County to consider a one-cent sales tax to invest in capital and infrastructure projects, and to dedicate 100 percent of HOST proceeds to property tax relief. Questions about these two proposed changes are intended to be placed on the ballot on Nov. 8, 2016.
“The November referendum questions are very important, and I want to be sure everyone has access to the information they need to make an informed decision,” said Interim CEO Lee May.
The purpose of the first meeting at 2 p.m. is to provide the governing authorities of DeKalb and each qualified city within the county the opportunity to discuss the implementation of the SPLOST and E-HOST and possible projects. These projects include those planned by the county and the cities for inclusion in the proposed SPLOST referendum. The Citizens Advisory Committee, empaneled in January by Interim CEO May and the Board of Commissioners to provide feedback on projects to include road projects and other infrastructure needs in DeKalb recommended a list of projects to the Board for consideration and approval.
Between 6 – 8 p.m., DeKalb will host an interactive open house for the purposes of informing and educating residents about the upcoming referendum questions. The information that will be made available includes proposed project lists and maps organized by commission district with general information about SPLOST and E-HOST. Staff members from police, fire, parks and recreation, libraries, public works and other departments will be on hand to answer residents’ questions and record feedback. Participants are also encouraged to submit an online survey, located at http://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/SPLOST/Survey.html.
Both meetings are free and open to the public.
The Whitfield County Commission voted to take out a $5 million tax anticipation note funded by the existing SPLOST to smooth cash flow from the sales tax.
Georgia Power is seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to spend $175 million in assessing a site near Columbus for a potential new nuclear reactor.
Georgia Power executives said the company needs to get started on the study because it can take 17 years to license and build a new nuclear plant, which could be needed within 20 years.
But the regulator’s staff and at least one of the PSC’s commissioners are opposed to paying anything now toward the study. They say the utility should pay for the study itself or wait until the next update of its long-term plan, in 2019.
Commissioners asked why build a new reactor in Columbus instead of at Vogtle.
PSC member Tim Echols asked why not use Vogtle, it has ample room and already has the wires, roads, security and other infrastructure. It is also where the company is having built two AP-1000 reactors, the same design it is leaning toward for the reactor being considered.
“Everything else would say if you’re going to build an additional reactor, which is likely to be an AP-1000, wouldn’t it make sense to build it there rather than picking up everything and moving it all the way across the state?” he asked.
Alison R. Chiock, Georgia Power’s director of resource policy and planning, said that the company considered it but that there are stronger reasons for building it elsewhere.
The need for the power is more likely to be on the western end of the state, she said, but a bigger reason is to avoid what she called a “concentration of assets.”
When the current construction is complete, Vogtle will be the site of the nation’s largest concentration of reactors – four. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is leery of greater concentration, she said, because of the additional risks during malfunctions or other trouble.
Meanwhile, construction of units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle continues,
Executives at Georgia Power Co. are celebrating the achievement of some milestones in the construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle: the final vertical level and the delivery of the final coolant pump.
Construction is still only one-third complete, but these achievements are somewhat significant, company officials said.
Reaching the highest level of construction above the ground is a symbolic moment for the 5,300 workers at the site, as it is at all major construction projects. The highest point on the job is the top of the cooling towers at 601 feet, and crews are now at the top of the second one.
The company is also celebrating the placement of the last of what it calls the “Big Six” modules for the nuclear island of Unit 3, the heart of the nuclear plant.
The modules, weighing 52 tons and 237 tons, were assembled in a separate staging area on site and then lifted into place. They are part of a 75,000-cubic-foot tank that will contain water treated with boron that will also play a role in managing the reactor’s heat.
The company also moved to clean up a lingering issue from decades of coal, ash ponds used to dispose of waste.
All of the company’s 29 ash ponds across the state will cease operations and stop receiving coal ash within the next three years. Additionally, the company is completely removing the ash from 16 ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers where advanced engineering methods, such as the installation of impermeable concrete barriers designed to isolate the closed pond from groundwater, may not be feasible.
The ash from these ponds will either be relocated to a permitted landfill, consolidated with other closing ash ponds or recycled for beneficial use. (Approximately 50 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete, and cinder blocks.) The company’s remaining 13 ash ponds will be closed in place using advanced engineering methods.