That was surely the case for Tim Lee’s first years as Cobb Commission chairman, as he had to choose between further cuts in services or raising property taxes — and chose the latter.
But for the first time in his tenure, Lee is finally starting to get a taste of being chair when the economy clearly is on the upswing.
That was obvious Tuesday when he gave a spirited mid-year progress report to an invited audience of 75 Cobb leaders at Vinings Bank — and told them that if they couldn’t see that things in Cobb have turned around, they need to move. Lee almost seemed to be paraphrasing Barack Obama’s old campaign slogan about being “Fired Up,” telling listeners that growth has returned and the county is “ready to go!”
HE BEGAN by noting that in his “State of the County” speech back in January he had said he did not plan to look out the rear view mirror.
“We didn’t want to see where we were, but where we were going,” he said. “We want to look forward without looking back. We didn’t want to think about what was and why it was but to focus on where we were going and focus on moving the county forward.”
“Anybody who looks at our numbers and doesn’t think we’re in great shape going forward ought to move. Ought to move,” he repeated. “We’re in a great position in Cobb County, with a great educational system and some great financial indicators. We are in a position to take a hold of the opportunity to make things happen so we can be successful. I don’t want you to hesitate anymore on your plans for expansion, growth and making things happen in Cobb, because we are ready to go!”
THE PROJECTED TAX DIGEST for FY13 is essentially flat compared with last year, but SPLOST revenues continue to exceed projections, he said.
Revenues are $14.2 million higher than expected during the first 15 months of the tax, which took effect Jan. 1, 2012.
“That’s huge,” Lee said. “That’s a great indicator of consumer spending in Cobb County.”
Meanwhile, the surge in revenues has meant the county can continue to borrow less than before when it comes to Tax Anticipation Notes that are used to provide cash flow for operating expenses each year until taxes can be collected. From a high of $115 million in FY11 the figure fell to $98 million in FY12 and just $67 million this year.
“That’s good news, even if my explanation of it put you to sleep,” Lee told the crowd.
Ad valorem tax revenues are up, sales tax revenues are up and real estate-related fees are up $2.8 million, he said.
Commercial real estate permits for 2013 are at 2008 pre-recession levels, he said.
And residential real estate permits are close to 2008 levels.
“That’s another indication that things are getting better,” he said.
“Couple that with fact that there are only two subdivisions left in Cobb that qualify as what we call ‘PVC pipe farms,’” the chairman said. “You’ve seen a lot of those in the last few years, where they went in and cleared the land and they put in the PVC pipes and sewer pipes, then went belly-up before building the homes. Well, there are only two (incomplete) subdivisions in Cobb that haven’t been bought (out of foreclosure) and developed. I have real estate people coming to me saying there is a shortage of new homes in Cobb County. What an incredible position to be in.”
Cobb has had 4,125 new job announcements with $705 million worth of new investments, including four business expansions, thus far this calendar year, he said.
“And we’re just getting started,” Lee added. “Other counties are just now thinking about what they should do. What we did two years ago has now put us in a position for growth. We are in a position for excellence and I encourage you to take a part in that.”
POLITICS: Next year’s party primaries to choose nominees to succeed U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) are still roughly a year away, but there is plenty of activity to report, at least on the GOP side.
The biggest news came Friday with the announcement that candidate Bob Barr has tapped longtime Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon to chair his Cobb campaign committee.
“Business leaders and local governments need a champion in Congress who not only understands their needs, but has a proven record of meeting those needs; and Bob Barr is that person,” said Bacon.
Added former U.S. Rep. Barr, “Max is one of the most successful mayors in Georgia, and someone who understands fiscal responsibility.”
Bacon was first elected as Smyrna mayor in 1985 and recently retired after a 40-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, serving as Smyrna postmaster at the time of his retirement.
Former state Rep. Tom Wilder (R-east Cobb) is serving as Barr’s overall campaign chair and gun store owner Jay Wallace of Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna is his finance chair.
Also on board with Barr are Bartow County Commission Chair Mike Powell as his Bartow campaign chair, Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper as his Cherokee campaign chair and restaurateur Dante Stephensen of Dante’s Down the Hatch as his Fulton campaign chair.
“I think we’re the only candidate with a finance chair and all four county chairs already in place, which demonstrates the strength of his campaign,” said Barr strategist Jeff Breedlove.
SPEAKING OF ENDORSEMENTS, 11th District candidate Ed Lindsey, the Georgia House Majority Whip from Buckhead, this week picked up the endorsement of longtime Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison.
Lindsey also was named the Georgia House’s “Legislator of the Year” this week by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which praised his efforts this session to strengthen Georgia’s right-to-work (i.e. anti-union) laws.
The Chamber also named legislative newcomer Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) as its “Freshman of the Year.” He sponsored right-to-work Senate Bill 179 and was Senate sponsor of House Bill 188, which provided expedited licensing for qualified military veterans seeking to work in Georgia.
Hill served as Senate bill sponsor for several important measures including House Bill 188, which provided expedited licensing for qualified military veterans seeking work in our state and Senate Bill 179 which solidified Georgia’s right-to-work laws.
11TH DISTRICT candidate state Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cartersville) will speak at Monday’s Madison Forum luncheon at the Rib Ranch on Canton Road in east Marietta. The noon event is open to the public.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Most of the high-profile elections don’t roll around till next year, but you can still bet that Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren’s annual Corn Boilin’ on July 15 will be one of the most heavily attended political events in the state this year.
The fundraiser for the Cobb County Youth Museum is a decades-long bipartisan tradition that usually draws candidates for everything from senator and governor to dogcatcher and in-between. Tickets for the Jim Miller Park event will be $20.
CHAIRMAN Lee and state Attorney General Sam Olens are expected to make brief remarks at today’s 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. client appreciation event sponsored by State Farm agent Don Johnson at his office at 1230 Old Canton Road in east Cobb.
VININGS BANK President/CEO Dan Oliver closed out Tuesday’s lunch meeting with some words of wisdom:
“It appears that the stock market is suddenly on a bull run. So I’d like to define a ‘bull market’ for you. It is a random market movement that leads an individual investor to mistake himself for a genius — so be careful.”