County can’t afford to throw away possible revenue

Published 6:24 am Friday, March 1, 2013

One of the basic, fundamental financial goals of any business, organization, or governmental entity should be to generate a profit, surplus or, in some cases, to at least break even. To accomplish this, in the simplest of terms, you must spend less money than you make.

Most of us take this same approach in our personal households. If you spend more money than you make, you are bound to face disaster eventually.

For the Decatur County Commission, that time is now.

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At last Tuesday’s commission meeting, the news came that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Again this year, the county will have to borrow money just to simply operate — make payroll and pay the utility bills — in order to finish out the fiscal year.

Last year, the county had to make up a needed $2.1 million, this year that amount crept up to $2.4 million. Some of those funds are needed to make debt payments on bonds issued against SPLOST receipts. Borrowing money to make payments on borrowed money is not a sound financial practice.

Something has to change. The county either needs to cut expenditures or raise revenues. Most likely, it will take a combination of both reductions in expense and increases in revenue to get us out of this vicious cycle of getting loans to make it through the year.

Right in front of us, we have a good start on increased revenue. A company has chosen Decatur County to place solar panels on a tract of land in the Decatur County Industrial Park. The company would generate solar power that would then be sold to Georgia Power, which in turn would then be re-sold to their customers.

While this project may only generate 15 new jobs, that’s still 15 jobs more than we have right now. Even more importantly, it would generate tax revenue, which the county also desperately needs.

With a total investment of $70 million, this solar project would generate $417,000 annually in property taxes. That amount is equivalent to roughly one-half of a mil. That’s one-half of a mil less that the county would have to increase your property taxes in the coming year.

Back in December, the county commission unanimously voted to approve the contract to lease 100 acres of otherwise unusable land at the Industrial Park to the solar company to locate the solar arrays.

Because the identified acreage is close to the runways of our airport and under the Federal Aviation Administration’s purview, there are height restrictions on any development. So, we are converting unusable land into tax generating land.

Kudos to the members of the commission for seeing the value, need, and timeliness of this project and giving their unanimous approval for the project to move forward.

However, the commission’s approval only began the process of bringing the project to fruition and to completion. We need everyone and anyone involved in the process working in unison and in the same direction. We need to be removing any barriers that exist, in order to help this project. That is not happening, and that needs to change.

The county administration and county staff needs to get on board and start singing the same tune as everyone else in the county. We cannot afford to let opportunities like this solar project pass. We cannot let the personal agendas or personal interests of small groups affect what is best for the county as a whole.

And what is best for the county as a whole is for this project to be successful on land in the Industrial Park around the airport. Anything less is unacceptable. That should be the message that comes through loud and clear to anyone working in any other direction.