Lowndes County supervisors voted unanimously to borrow $1 million to pay for the completion of the county’s horse park, changing their approach to how they spend revenues from the county’s hospital trust fund.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley recommended borrowing the money rather than paying off the $1 million needed to finish the project with the funds it receives from the trust fund dividends early next year.
“One of the problems we have run into is that we have done projects and don’t ever know for sure how much the earnings are going to be, so we get into situations where we start a project but don’t have enough money to finish it,” Billingsley told the supervisors. “If we borrow this money, we can put the money that we pull out of the trust this year into one of our funds and that will give us a little bit of working capital to do this.
“We have about a million left to pay,” he added. “I would like to borrow the $1 million over a five-year period and pay the debt service out of the earnings from the hospital money.”
Board President Harry Sanders said he supports the move but would also like to have the evaluation date on the hospital trust fund changed. Currently, supervisors can withdraw earnings from the trust fund based on the fund’s value on Dec. 31 each year. The principal of the trust fund contains about $30 million from the sale of its county hospital to the Baptist hospital group in 2006.
“The problem we run into is that our fiscal year starts in October, so we have about three months that we don’t know how much money we’re going to be able to pull out,” Sanders said. “If we could move the evaluation date to Oct. 1, we would know exactly how much money we are going to have.”
District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham suggested the better evaluation date would be Aug. 31, which would allow the supervisors to factor the trust fund revenue into the annual budget, which has to be finished on Sept. 15 each year.
Sanders said he’d like to see a resolution from the supervisors to ask the Legislature to move the trust fund evaluation date, which he said he would put on today’s board agenda.
The board voted unanimously to borrow $1 million to complete the horse parks, which is expected to be finished by spring.
Intergovernmental relations committee
Also on Friday, the board appointed members to the intergovernmental relations committee proposed between the county and city of Columbus.
Supervisors selected District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, District 3 Supervisor John Holliman, Billingsley and Chief Financial Officer Lloyd Price to represent the county on the committee.
Supervisors, led by Smith, proposed reestablishing the committee — which existed several years ago — to meet regularly and discuss issues that affect both the city and county. The meetings will be public.
Before supervisors approved their appointments, District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said Columbus Mayor Robert Smith had informed him that the city had changed its members. Initially, the city council appointed the mayor, Public Information Officer Joe Dillon and Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong to the committee, along with two councilmen. The city’s committee will now consist of Armstrong, Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle and councilmen Stephen Jones and Joseph Mickens.
Armstrong confirmed the city change to The Dispatch but did not offer a reason.
In other business, supervisors also approved a bid from B&E Communications for the purchase of a new camera system for the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center.
The county approved the purchase of 100 cameras and control panel system at a cost of $238,333.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.