Insurance is near the top of my list of most aggravating words. You know how in movies, mobsters always shake down store owners for “protection?” The hapless owner must pay the mobster more and more or face his wrath. I feel like that with insurance. There is some big mobster out there promising to “protect me.” Oh yeah, thanks for the “protection.” And yet he continues to require more money and offer fewer of his tough guys to look out for my store.
[Full Story »]
The 2016 election has brought us so many new low points in American politics. And at this point, I don’t even feel like it’s about red and blue anymore. It feels like it’s about our conflicting ideas of what constitutes a base level of decency. We are truly divided on our basic moral outlook. One believes he sees up. The other sees down. One sees nighttime, where another sees day. There’s no argument or convincing the other side that they’re closer to the true reality. There’s only shouting. When shouting fails, violence awaits.
[Full Story »]
Madison County government employees can expect a three-percent cost-of-living raise for 2017.
The planned pay increase marks the first cost-of-living raise in several years for government employees. The overall price tag on the increase is $189,266.
The state has mandated three-percent cost-of-living raises for elected officials. And county commissioners have traditionally matched any raises for elected officials with the same increases for employees. The commissioners agreed to continue that tradition at a Thursday budget meeting.
But the board is grappling with a familiar budget problem — a revenue shortfall. Right now, the group is staring at a $1.3 million gap between anticipated revenues and expenses for 2017. The board projects $13,441,711 in revenues next year. Total expenses, with the three-percent cost-of-living raises are $14,767,162.
While revenue shortfalls have been an annual occurrence, commissioners have repeatedly rolled back the county’s tax rates to offset any revenue gains from increases due to increased property values. The state mandates that keeping the tax rate steady while property values rise must be accompanied with three public hearings and advertisements of a “tax increase,” since actual tax revenues will rise, despite a stable tax rate.
This annual commitment to rolling back the tax rate and avoiding the advertised “tax increase” has exacerbated the revenue shortfall gap.
“If you’d left it the same, you’d probably be OK,” Dove told commissioners Thursday, referencing the annual tax rate rollbacks.
The BOC will break the trend this year, instead of rolling it back to offset property value increases. That will raise more revenues than last year and will require three public hearings before approval. Those hearings will be held in the commissioners’ meeting room: Aug. 18 at 9:30 a.m., Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. and Aug. 29 at 6 p.m.
[Full Story »]
Former county human resources director Donna Sisk, who filed a lawsuit against the Madison County government, saying she was wrongly terminated in 2013, has settled with the county for $100,000.
[Full Story »]
Madison County commissioners unanimously shot down plans Aug. 1 for chicken houses at Hwy. 106 and Neese-Commerce Road, drawing applause from a large group of neighboring residents who opposed the proposal.
Randall Broome requested the rezoning of 69.9 acres from A-2 to A-1 for poultry houses. The applicant, who is not a Madison County resident, doesn’t plan to farm the land himself, but instead wants to sell the property. He said the only interest he’s gotten from buyers is if the land is A-1, which opens the door for chicken houses.
Matt Whitehead was the lone speaker in favor of Broome’s proposal. He said agriculture is the backbone of the county and needs to be supported.
“This county has stood behind and been known for their agriculture,” he said, noting that 75 percent of the land around the proposed rezoning is already A-1.
Planning commission chairman Wayne Douglas said the applicant could put up to 14 rental homes on the property in the next few years without a rezoning. He said there would be no way to stop the rental properties from coming.
Numerous people took the podium Aug. 1, pleading with commissioners to turn down the request. They presented a variety of concerns. Many said they didn’t like the idea of someone coming in, buying property without living on the land, then selling it for a profit while negatively affecting the lives of those nearby. [Full Story »]
Madison County commissioners renewed the county’s property and casualty insurance with One Beacon Insurance Group July 25.
The premium will go up from $185,000 to $192,000 due to more equipment and facilities needing to be insured, not due to any rate increases, according to the county’s insurance representative Dan Horne of Chastain and Associates Insurance Agency of Athens. Horne said that the county’s premium is set firm for one year. So any equipment or facilities that need to be added to the plan aren’t done so until the contract is renewed. That’s what accounted for this year’s increase.
Horne noted that the county has six more sheriff’s department vehicles to insure, along with additional space at the county jail and the old gym next to the county government complex, which was purchased from the school system.
Horne said the county’s premium is “about $100,000 less” than it was about a decade ago. He pointed out that a number of actions were taken to lower the premium, such as putting guards on the front of deputy’s vehicles to prevent damage from deer.
In a separate matter during a brief meeting, the board approved the purchase of a Kubota tractor for the road department at a cost of $29,656. The county knocked the price down from $47,656 by trading in three pieces of old equipment.
County commission chairman Anthony Dove opened Monday’s meeting, praising candidates in the July 26 runoffs for acting civilly towards each other.
“It’s been one of the most civil runoffs I’ve seen,” he said. “I appreciate it. I know the county does.”