Changing Walker County’s Form of Government

Walker County voters overwhelmingly elected to move from a Sole Commissioner form of government to a Board of Commissioners.  80% of votes cast in the November 6, 2018 election favored moving to a board.  So, how does this work?

In early 2017, the Georgia General Assembly was asked to pass legislation to give the public an official vote on whether to move to a board.  State lawmakers and legislative counsel, using parameters established by representatives from the Walker County Republican Party, drafted a bill outlining the composition of a five-person board, their duties, powers, district maps and other related matters.  Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law on May 2, 2017.

As established in the Act, the County won’t change from a Sole Commissioner to a Board of Commissioners until January 1, 2021.  This will allow candidates time to explore and mount campaigns to run for office.  The first group of board members will be elected in November 2020.  There will be four district commissioners and a chairperson.  The four district commissioners must have resided in their district for 12 months, be 18 years of age or older and will be elected by only the voters of their district.  The chairperson must have resided in Walker County for 12 months, be 25 years of age or older and will be elected by all county voters.  Along with presiding over meetings, the chairperson administers the affairs and day to day business of the county.

District 1 & 2 Commissioners will serve an initial two-year term, while the District 3 & 4 Commissioners and the Chairperson will serve four-year terms.  After 2022, all commissioner seats will become four-year terms.  This means every two years, two of the district commissioner positions will be on the ballot.

The state Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office designed the four districts, attempting to equalize the population of each district in relation to the cities of Rossville, Chickamauga, LaFayette and Lookout Mountain.

walkercc-2017-map

Click this link to open a high-resolution pdf of the district map in a new window to view, print or download.

District commissioners will be paid $12,000 a year and reimbursed for documented reasonable expenses, which the entire board must vote on.  The chairperson will be paid $100,000 or $500 more than the highest paid elected county officer, whichever is greater.  The state dictates elected official pay, based on position and years of service.  District commissioners may participate in county provided health, dental and retirement programs at their own expense.  No county funds should be spent on these programs to benefit district commissioners.

At their first meeting as a board in January 2021, the five commissioners will determine the time, date and place of their meetings going forward.  Those meetings must take place in LaFayette, the county seat.

Special Called Meeting Scheduled to Open Bids for Road Project

The Walker County Commissioner will hold a special called meeting on Wednesday, November 21st at Noon to open bids for Walker County Local Maintenance Asphalt Resurfacing Project 2018-02 (Diamond Circle). This is the only item that will be on the agenda.

Please note, this meeting will take place at the Commissioner’s Office at 101 S. Duke Street in LaFayette, not the Courthouse Annex III building.

Lunch Conversation with the Commissioner Returns November 1st

Flintstone, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield invites you to join him for lunch on Thursday, November 1st.

Whitfield will hold the latest Lunch Conversation with the Commissioner event on November 1st from 11:30am to 1:30pm at Susan’s Diner, located at 3551 Chattanooga Valley Road in Flintstone. The public is encouraged to drop by, purchase a meal and enjoy some friendly conversation about Walker County as Commissioner Whitfield visits your table.

The event provides residents who can’t attend Commissioner Meetings in LaFayette with a daytime opportunity to ask questions and share their comments and concerns.

Susan Hays opened Susan’s Diner in 2012, bringing some of her family’s favorite dishes to the restaurant menu. The family owned diner serves soups, salads, hamburgers, sandwiches, and meat and veggie plates during lunch. Susan’s Diner also offers an extensive breakfast menu and features a daily special.

Walker County Finances Improving; 2018 TAN Need Reduced by $2 Million

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield signed two resolutions Thursday authorizing the county to partner with two local banks to improve cash flow.

The Bank of LaFayette and First Volunteer Bank each agreed to loan Walker County up to $3 million through a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN). These short term loans, which must be repaid by the end of the calendar year, will help fully fund government operations until budgeted revenue is received.

“We originally thought we would need to do this in May. We’ve gone three months longer than anticipated, which means we’ve had good money management. Our entire county government team has committed to make sure every citizen’s dollar is spent wisely,” said Commissioner Shannon Whitfield. “We are getting our financial house in order and Walker County is earning its credibility back.”

In January 2017, Walker County faced an $8 million shortfall in operating expenses for the year. The county addressed the financial crisis through a series of moves to cut expenses, improve efficiencies and using $7.5 million of an $8 million line of credit, which was paid off early on December 22, 2017. This year, TAN’s are $2 million less than the amount authorized last year. Commissioner Whitfield aims to reduce the need for TAN’s by $2 million each year until the cycle is broken.

“I cannot say enough positive things about The Bank of LaFayette and First Volunteer Bank,” added Commissioner Whitfield. “They both stepped up last year and stood in the gap for this county when everyone else was running for cover. Their boards took a risk, but they also took pride in their community by doing their part to support the direction the county is moving in.”

Walker County remained committed to continuing its relationship with these local lenders because of their steadfast support last year. The Bank of LaFayette will charge a 3.10% interest rate on its TAN, while First Volunteer Bank will charge 3.25% interest.

Walker County to Hold Three Public Hearings to Set Millage Rate

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield plans three public hearings this month to provide citizens with an opportunity to learn more about how the millage rate may impact them.

The proposed fiscal 2019 budget includes the same millage rate as last year for residents in the unincorporated areas of Walker County. However, due to the tax digest formula, city residents will experience a slight property tax increase of 0.177 mills, or 1.35%. The adjustment works out to be $7.64 on a home worth $100,000.

“We continue to show significant progress toward our goal of financial recovery,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “In the past year, we’ve reduced our debt, operated on a fiscally responsible balanced budget and charted a course to enhance our sales tax base through the Walker Rocks tourism initiative. I appreciate the outstanding teamwork of our county employees, and the shared sacrifices we have all endured, as we continue on a path to growth.”

Hearings will take place on the following dates/times and locations:

  • Thursday, August 23rd at 6 p.m. – Walker County Courthouse Annex III (201 South Main Street, LaFayette)
  • Thursday, August 30th at 10 a.m. – Walker County Civic Center (10052 US-27, Rock Spring)
  • Thursday, August 30th at 6 p.m. – Walker County Courthouse Annex III (201 South Main Street, LaFayette)

The millage rate will be adopted at a Special Called Commissioner Meeting on August 30th following the third public hearing.

2018 Tax Digest
2018 Tax Digest
Notice of Property Tax Increase
Notice of Property Tax Increase

 

Walker County Commissioner Meetings Move to New Location

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield’s meetings will move to a new location this month. The Commissioner’s regularly scheduled meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, will now take place at the Walker County Courthouse Annex III building, located at 201 S Main Street in LaFayette.

Many residents know this building as the old Kitchens Clinic or the former Tag & Tax office. The building underwent an emergency renovation to house the Public Defender’s office, Drug Court and other judicial services. Those government functions had to be relocated after the Walker County Judiciary Annex was deemed unsafe, following the collapse of a nearby building in LaFayette’s downtown square.

Meetings will take place in the courtroom, which has seating for over 70 community members. The building also has ADA compliant bathrooms and additional parking.

The first meeting in the new location will be on May 10th, which will also include a Public Hearing on the revised Animal Care Ordinance.

Walker County to hold Public Hearings on Proposed Tax Increase and Budget for Fiscal 2018

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield plans three public hearings this month to provide citizens with a better overview of the county’s fiscal 2018 budget, as well as an outline of how the county intends to address its massive debt.

The proposed fiscal 2018 budget includes a property tax increase of 2.00 mills in the unincorporated locations of the county and 2.189 in the incorporated areas.

The proposed annual tax increase on a home with a fair market value of $100,000 would be $76 in the unincorporated locations and $83.18 in the incorporated areas. That works out to be less than $7.00 a month, which is about the amount of a combo meal at a fast food restaurant, popcorn at the movies or some bottled waters and coffees.

“We have a very high level of debt compared to our revenue stream, and our most recent audit shows we also have a negative fund balance of $7.5 million,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “If we don’t change course, it will take us decades to pay off these obligations, burdening our children and grandchildren with the missteps of the past.”

Hearings will take place on the following dates/times and locations:

·        Thursday, August 17th at 6:30 p.m. – LaFayette-Walker County Public Library (305 S Duke Street)
·        Saturday, August 19th at 10:00 a.m. – Walker County Civic Center (10052 US-27, Rock Spring)
·        Thursday, August 24th at 6:30 p.m. – Walker County Commissioner’s Office (101 S Duke Street)

The Commissioner scheduled the Saturday, August 19th hearing to encourage more citizens to attend and ask questions. “The Saturday hearing will include a presentation on the recent audit and how it affects the county, along with an overview of each department’s budget,” said Commissioner Whitfield.

The millage rate will be set during the August 24th meeting.

Link to 2017 Notice of Property Tax Increase
Link to 2017 Tax Digest and 5 Year History