New library paid in full, aquatic center could benefit as well
Lumpkin County’s new library is now paid off and Parks & Rec has nearly $100,000 to use where needed. And it’s all thanks to local leadership, some smart investing and a little bit of luck.
That money comes from interest earned from the 2002 SPLOST.
But there would have been no SPLOST if not for a near financial disaster that put the county $15 million in debt during the four years of a former sole commissioner’s administration.
That debt led to the creations of the Public Building Authority, which came about through the efforts of incoming sole commissioner Steve Gooch, former finance directors Jimmy Berrong and Ruth Bohac (who later became county clerk), and newly hired finance director Frank Youngblood.
The bill creating the Authority passed by the legislature in record time. Authority members then investigated issuing bonds to pay off the debt, found someone willing to issue them on the county’s behalf and signed an agreement in Feb. 2001. The following year Lumpkin’s citizens voted in a SPLOST to pay off the bonds.
“The only project for the 2002 SPLOST was to retire the financial recovery debt,” said current county Finance Director Allison Martin.
A lucky break collecting more revenue than anticipated from the SPLOST led to being able to accrue interest that could be invested, Youngblood said.
“The SPLOST has been earning interest since 2002,” he said. “We made quarterly bond payments, but the money was coming in faster than the payments were due and was invested. I am thankful to Allison Martin. She invested wisely—she found the highest-yield investments possible while still maintaining liquidity.”
“The breakage fee on the financial recovery debt was too large to pay off early so we invested the funds and over time accumulated $1.9 million in interest,” Martin said.
Money left over from SPLOST collections must be used for public purposes, according to state law. Both the Authority and BOC were of like-mind on how a portion of the accumulated funds could be used.
“When we worked on the budget for the new library the decision to ask for $1 million for that project became a way to round out the funding for that public project without having to touch reserves or [raise taxes],” Martin said. “The use of this million along with money from the 2014 and 2020 SPLOSTs and fundraising completely funds the library project without the need for tapping reserves.”
“We had anticipated a good chunk going to the library anyway,” Youngblood told The Nugget, “so we were glad to help with the completion of the library.”
A sum of $59,000 went to Parks & Rec earlier for a project at Yahoola Creek Park, and the Authority decided Parks & Rec should also receive the remainder of the accrued interest. Though the Authority cannot tell the BOC specifically what to do with the money, however, “we can strongly recommend,” Youngblood said, “and the consensus of the Building Authority was it should be used for an aquatic center.”
“We appreciate the Authority’s support and their understanding of the community’s need for a new library,” said BOC Chairman Chris Dockery. “And while we can’t currently commit funds to use for any specific project, we do agree it should be spent for Park & Rec.”