Walker County to Refinance Previously Issued Bonds, Saving Taxpayers Over Two-Million Dollars

Rock Spring, GA – A proposal to refinance a series of revenue bonds could result in over two-million dollars in savings to Walker County taxpayers.

The Walker County Development Authority (WCDA) issued the Series 2015 bonds on behalf of Walker County Government, in order to fund the completion of infrastructure and dirt work at the Walker County Industrial Park.

Four years ago, WCDA issued the bonds contingent on the county being financially obligated for all fees, interest and payments.  WCDA also made obtaining over $17.5 million in Series 2015 bonds contingent upon receiving a rate not to exceed 7.5%.  This year, based on Walker County’s improved financial conditions, WCDA proposes to refinance the remaining balance of the bonds contingent upon receiving a rate not to exceed 4.9%.

As part of the refinancing process, Walker County expects to receive an upgraded credit rating, due to the same improvements in the county’s balance sheet and financial outlook that would allow the lower interest rate cap.

“One of the top priorities of my administration has been to get our financial house in order.  Restoring Walker County’s credit rating makes lower rates like this possible for existing debt,” said Commissioner Shannon Whitfield.  “The latest audit shows our balance sheet in a much stronger position than in 2015.  This allows us to turn yet another page in our shared journey together toward freedom from crippling county debt. We are thrilled this will save the taxpayers of Walker County millions of dollars.”

WCDA approved the bond resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, June 11th.  Commissioner Shannon Whitfield will review the proposal at his meeting on Thursday, June 13th.  Once the bonding agency has received final interest rate terms, both government entities will make a decision on whether to move forward with the refinancing proposal.

Walker County’s Erlanger Fee to be Eliminated

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield made an important announcement this morning that will benefit every property owner in Walker County.

Whitfield proclaimed an end to the Public Health Facilities and Services fee, the ordinance created to pay down the county’s debt to Erlanger Health System over the course of three years.  “We project we have collected enough from the Public Health Facilities and Services fee over the past two years to meet our obligation to Erlanger at the end of this tax cycle,” said Whitfield.  “This means the fee will not be charged on your next tax bill!”

According to the state of Georgia, the average home value in Walker County is $100,000.  The elimination of the fee will remove $140 from the average homeowner’s tax bill.

Walker County will take the necessary steps to formally end the fee in May by amending the ordinance that established it.  Those changes are scheduled to be finalized at the May 23, 2019 Commissioner Meeting.

In 2017, a federal judge ordered Walker County to pay Erlanger $8.7 million plus interest and attorney’s fees to cover its portion of a 2011 loan to keep Hutcheson Medical Center open.  Erlanger agreed to waive interest and attorney fees, as part of a settlement agreement in January 2018, provided Walker County made 13 quarterly payments.

“Dealing with this debt has been a tough chapter in our shared journey,” Whitfield added.  “I thank our citizens for the sacrifices made during this difficult time in our history.  Today, we turn the page.  Today, we start our own chapter in Walker County history.”

Whitfield Hand Delivers Checks to Pay Off Two Loans Early

LaFayette, GA – Walker County’s financial status continues to show significant improvement.  For the second year in a row, Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield repaid two Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) well before an end of year deadline.

In August, the Bank of LaFayette and First Volunteer Bank agreed to loan Walker County up to $6 million, or $3 million each, to help fully fund government operations until budgeted revenue for FY 2019 started being received.

Today, Whitfield hand delivered checks to both banks to pay off the loans.  Walker County needed only $500,000 from each financial institution to cover expenses, due in part to improved efficiencies at county departments, leaner operations and the passage of a balanced budget in September.

The two TANs cost the county $8,062.10 in fees and interest this year.  In 2017, when Walker County needed up to $8 million in short term loans to meet obligations, fees and interest added up to $135,133.69.

“I know paying off debt may not be the most glamorous topic of conversation.  But getting our financial house in order and restoring Walker County’s reputation remain among my top priorities,” said Whitfield.

“When I took office on January 1, 2017, Walker County’s inherited debt was $70 million. As of today, we’ve reduced our debt by 29% to $50 million,” Whitfield added.  “We wouldn’t be able to reach this achievement without the support of all of our team members and elected officials.”

Walker County Pays Off $7.5 Million in Loans Early

LAFAYETTE, GA – Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield successfully repaid two Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) before an end of year deadline, saving the county an estimated $12,194 in interest.

Walker County borrowed $4 million from the Bank of LaFayette in January and received a $4 million line of credit from First Volunteer Bank of LaFayette in June to fund the county’s monthly operational expenses. The loans were necessary after the previous administration left Walker County over $70 million in debt, with very little cash on hand and over $3.5 million in past due bills on January 1st.

Commissioner Whitfield pointed out the county actually borrowed less than originally estimated. “We projected we would need $8 million to meet our obligations for 2017. After restructuring some services to manage county government more efficiently, we only had to borrow $7.5 million,” said Whitfield.

Walker County made a $1 million payment on the Bank of LaFayette TAN on November 13th and a $2 million dollar payment on December 12th. Whitfield hand delivered checks to the Bank of LaFayette and First Volunteer Bank of LaFayette on December 22nd to pay off the remainder of both loans.

A $5 million TAN from an out of town bank obtained in 2016 by former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell cost the county $258,393 in fees and interest. Whitfield affirmed, “Walker County borrowed $7.5 million in 2017 from two local financial institutions, receiving lower fees and favorable interest rates that added up to $135,133. Banking local saved the county $123,260 compared to the previous year’s TAN loan.”

Whitfield anticipates another TAN won’t be needed until summer 2018. “As we continue to make progress to return Walker County to solid financial footing, I hope to end the process of borrowing money for regular day to day operations by 2020.”