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Camden Local Government

Time crunch: PSA debates future funding, grapples with continual financial woes

PSA Board continues to grapple with the financial aftermath of past mismanagement

The Public Service Authority called a Special Called on Wednesday to discuss many financial issues.

The Special Called Meeting notice was sent on Monday, November 5 in an email to the media. It was later discovered that the meeting notice was not published to the PSA’s website or social media platforms to inform the public.

The meeting consisted of a variety of items related to past financial mismanagement issues and future proposals on how fund the PSA moving forward.

How will the PSA be funded moving forward?

The PSA Board grappled with how to update their intergovernmental agreement with the three cities and the county which includes an updated funding scheme. Currently, the agreement, which is expired, used a tax digest model of funding.  Kingsland’s City Council is in favor of the tax digest model while the rest of the municipalities are leaning toward the population funding model. The City of St. Marys has already voted to fund it based on population.

The population model has been used for many years, but this use of the model has caused a shortfall in the PSA’s budget. According to PSA Board member and County Commissioner Jimmy Starline, that model only funded 85 percent of the expenditures for the last 15 years. In the last fiscal year (2018), all three cities and the county paid $700,000 to sure up PSA’s expenditures.

For three months, the PSA leadership, which has changed twice since the firing of the former director, has been trying to schedule an all-day special work session between all entities; including the school district. Commissioner Starline told AllOnGeorgia-Camden that he has been asking for such a meeting for six months. At the special called meeting, the PSA Board set the all-day meeting on November 19 at 9 am at the PSA Building off Wildcat Drive in Kingsland. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the future funding model and the language of a new intergovernmental agreement.

Tax Digest or Population? What’s the holdup?

Voters will be asked for a tax (SPLOST) that may go to fund PSA projects

Starline wants the funding to be consistent will all other shared funding in the county, which aligns to funding by population rather than tax digest. Currently, the county’s Special Purpose Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) – 7 will expire at the end of June 30, 2019. There is roughly $430,000 to use by the PSA to fund current projects and finalize expenditures that would carry over into the next year. Starline suggested that the funding scheme between the three cities and the county needs to be corrected before asking the voters for a new SPLOST 8 tax on a March 2019 referendum.

“We’ve got SPLOST coming up. If we decide we are going to go with [tax] digest, that’s fine with me, but we should do SPLOST on digest. If we’re going to do population, then we’ll do SPLOST on population. The real problem is we have been talking about this meeting for three months now, and we haven’t had it, and now I have a drop-dead date of December 15th on SPLOST-8 if you want a governmental agreement. Even if you do not want a governmental agreement [the deadline] is still December 15th; otherwise it will just be a county SPLOST,“ Starline reminded the members of the PSA board.

Starline told the PSA Board members that the PSA Board itself is holding up the SPLOST-8 discussions. The SPLOST-8 language must be completed by December 15 for a March 2019 vote by the taxpayers if they want to new sales tax to fund projects and expenditures of the PSA. Additionally, the PSA is proposing $3 million in projects and corrections to facilities which will require new SPLOST-8 tax money for completion.

“We [the PSA Board] voted to have a population model, but Mayor Smith’s Council either has to come in line, or we go with the digest,” explained Starline. “We needed this meeting months ago. We’ve got to decide how we want to split it.”

St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey asked Kingsland Mayor Smith if he could explain this to the Kingsland Council.  Mayor Smith reminded the PSA Board that Kingsland’s council is split on the population versus digest model. A few weeks ago, Kingsland’s council voted to fund the new PSA payments based on the tax digest model.

Kingsland’s City Finance Director Filiz Morrow was present at the meeting and asked the PSA Board why they would hold up SPLOST funding if the digest model were not the funding scheme. Starline replied that he wanted it for “consistency.” Morrow said that Kingsland funded PSA by tax digest because of the original PSA agreement.

“The PSA is not funded by sales tax; it’s funded out of our [Kingsland] general fund which is out of the tax digest,” said Morrow.

“But utilization is funded by population,” replied Starline.

“But that is not our revenue source,” said Morrow. “We don’t get X-amount of money per person in the city.”

Morrow maintained that PSA users pay a fee. In order to fund the government portion of the PSA, it was paid for by the digest model from Kingsland based on the original agreement.

“We’re gonna be consistent with it. If you want to do digest, I have no problem with it, but I am going to do SPLOST on population,” said Starline.

Morrow continued to say that revenue sources should match in funding the PSA’s governmental portion, but Starline countered saying that it should be passed on population utilization.

“We [Kingsland] do not get a revenue source by the number of people in our community, it’s by tax digest,” said Morrow.

“Well everyone else is doing population,” Starline said. “Everyone else has agreed to population.”

Morrow maintains that the other governments are paying by the population because it benefits them. Kingsland residents make up 70 percent of the usage of the PSA and recreational facilities since the recreation center is located Kingsland. Morrow continued to say that the funding mechanisms do not have to be the same.

“They don’t have to be, but that is my goal,” said Starline.

St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey said his council already voted to fund via population and may have to go back and revote for the tax digest model. Morrissey is not sure how his council will receive the information about re-voting on the funding model.

“The [St. Marys Council] has told me what they want,” said Morrissey.

Other items –

  • The PSA Board voted to pay a bill to David Amos Architect, LLC, for services between 2014-2015. The company billed the PSA with 11 percent interest each month and late fees with a total bill of over $32,000. The PSA Board voted only to pay the architect $22,628. The architect had no contract and did not bill the PSA consistently, and the Board agreed that the architect deserved payment since he did complete the work.

 

  • The PSA will now have regularly scheduled meetings on every third Thursday of each month.

 

  • SPLOST 7 – Ends in June 30, 2019 and the PSA Board looks toward voters passing SPLOST-8 to help fund the PSA

 

  • Nancy Gonzalez, PSA finance director, said they are waiting on the release of the financial audit of the PSA. Gonzalez said there would likely be payback to the SPLOST account from the general fund “because the money was commingled.” Gonzalez said she did not want to quote how much of an amount that would be paid back because those funds have not yet been audited.

 

  • IRS tax payments – Gonzalez said she has no idea when the payments will occur back to the IRS. The County advanced $100,000 to pay the IRS for a total offer in compromise of $500,000. However, the County did not pay the PSA $100,000 to pay the IRS in October. Gonzalez said she would have to recover the $100,000 as a line of credit to pay the IRS but would need an intergovernmental agreement with all the cities and the county even to pay the IRS it’s first payment. “Right now, I am short $100,000 because of that situation,” said Gonzalez.

Public comments –

Ben Goff discussed the condition of his community park in Harriett’s Bluff. Goff said some things are being addressed to maintain the park but stated that a large amount of engineered mulch is still lying on the ground and not being used. Goff also wanted to discuss other items related to drainage but said that the PSA’s problem is transparency to the public.

He asked when the special called meeting was announced and was it posted for public awareness to the PSA’s website. Goff also asked if the PSA is going to continue the right-of-way mowing for the county. PSA director Joey Cason said that there is a past contract, and they have calculated the actual cost, but he did not say if the county will assume the right-of-way mowing at this time. Goff also asked about vehicle policies of the PSA relative to employees taking the vehicles home and car allowances.

PSA director Cason said he was not aware of any car allowances, but that he drives his POV home and the assistant director, Buck Johnsen, along with two other employees, drive their assigned PSA vehicles home.

Scott Humphrey discussed how the Human Resources polices were not fair in relation to the termination his wife who was the former fitness instructor  at the PSA.

 

 

 

Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.

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