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Upgrades to 911 system coming

County hopes new sales tax revenue helps limit shortfalls

POSTED: March 18, 2017 1:22 p.m.

The Liberty County Commissioners approved on Thursday a $438,000 purchase of software needed for a major upgrade of the 911 system.

A committee of officials chose Tyler Technologies for the law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service parts of the computer-aided dispatch system.

The money is part of $2.1 million in the county’s latest Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax allocated for improving the 911 system. The additional sales tax collection begins on April Fools Day.

Next month the commissioners expect to vote on the hardware portion of the project, computer servers and workstations.

It will probably take 12 to 15 months to get the software up and running and County Administrator Joey Brown said delivery and installation of the hardware could be coordinated with this schedule.

The old 911 system will be kept in operation until the new one is fully tested and training is complete. The county’s 911 chief, Tom Wahl, said, “It will be a bit cramped while we’re running both systems.”

Tyler’s agreement with the county provides for “evergreen” maintenance and support, meaning the county will never have to buy new licenses or updated packages.

The first year’s maintenance is free and continuing maintenance starts at $35,459 for the second year. Subsequent increases will be based on the Consumer Price Index and are expected to be less than 3 percent. Wahl said Tyler was the only provider offering evergreen maintenance.

When Commissioner Eddie Walden asked what the technology outlook was five years in the future Wahl said, “No one knows . . . it hasn’t been invented yet.”

 

County finances

County Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin presented the financial report for the month of February.

The county is holding an undesignated fund balance of $7.3 million, enough money to operate the county for 2.9 months. Last year at this time the reserve was enough to fund county operations for 3.9 months.

McGlothlin said, “We don’t anticipate that we are going to realize all of our projected revenue.”

She reminded the commissioners that they had decided to pay for revenue shortfalls in recent years by spending out of their fund balance. The commissioners have voted to rollback taxes for the amount of increase of value of the tax digest.

This keeps property tax revenues flat.

Chairman Donald Lovette said, “It’s just not pretty looking at it in red.”

McGlothlin said, “We budget for merit pay increases, but we don’t give merit pay increases,” as one example of efforts to limit the shortfall.

County employees have had some cost of living pay increases but no merit pay hikes in nine years.

Commissioner Connie Thrift said, “We have got to quit using fund balance,” to balance the budget.

Lovette said, “If I had a magic wand . . . I would build up our fund balance.”

McGlothlin told the commissioners she hoped to see an increase in local option sales tax revenue with the new retail businesses coming into the area.

The LOST had declined in recent years, she said, but that trend might be reversed.

 

The commissioners voted to refinance the bond debt on the Justice Center; the new plan will offer a lower interest rate and a shorter term.

After receiving a warning letter from the state Department of Community Affairs, the commissioners voted to close the revolving loan fund intended to encourage industry by making low interest loans.

The DCA said the county had not made a loan from the fund since May 2004 and only $1,900 remained in the fund.

The DCA will give bonus points counting toward Community Development Block Grant awards to counties whose revolving loan funds are in compliance. Liberty is seeking a grant to fund its rural water system expansion.

 

Engineer Matt Barrow presented a short update on the county’s water system; he said documents have been sent to the United States Department of Agriculture to extend the system east along Willie Dixon Road. Barrow said he hopes to advertise for bids in late April.

 

Lovette proclaimed March 31 as Paint Liberty County Blue Day on which citizens will wear blue and use blue porch lights to promote autism awareness. Gale Dent and a group of supporters presented blue ribbons and asked support in combating autism.

 

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