Local lawmakers spent more than they took into their campaign chests in the first six months of this year.
Financial disclosure reports were filed last week by the Floyd County delegation: Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; and Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, and Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville.
• Hufstetler reported one contribution, $2,800, from the Georgia Medical Political Action Committee. He paid out $6,229 in expenses, leaving a cash balance of $162,329 in his account.
Itemized expenses over $100 included a $1,000 contribution to the 2020 congressional campaign of Brandon Beach, a Republican state senator. Hufstetler also listed payments to an administrative intern, parking fees and $2,603 to Chase Financial Services as "reimbursement of expenses."
• Dempsey reported $9,650 in contributions and $11,706 in expenditures, leaving $54,424 in her campaign account.
Major contributors included, at the $1,000-level, Georgia Medical PAC, Comprehensive Health Management Inc. of Tampa and MAG Mutual Ga. PAC. The bulk of the donations came from the medical and financial industries and political lobbying firms.
More than half Dempsey's listed expenses are accounted for by $2,100 monthly payments to lease an apartment near
the state capitol in April, May and June. The rest are mainly charity donations and sponsorships.
Local nonprofits supported by Dempsey include 100 Black Men of Northwest Georgia, $200; Exchange Club Family Resource Center, $500; Heart of the Community Foundation, $300; Junior Service League, $100; Living Proof Recovery, $100; Northwest Georgia Boy Scouts Council, $125; Rome Symphony Orchestra, $200; and the Community Kitchen, $120.
• Scoggins was sworn in Jan. 14 following a hotly contested special election to fill the House District 14 seat. His latest report shows he paid off the remaining $11,256 of his campaign debt.
The freshman legislator took in $2,350 in contributions and ended the reporting period with $4,662 in the bank. The next round of reports run through Dec. 31.
Members of the Georgia General Assembly are barred from accepting contributions while the legislature is in session, which was from Jan. 14 through April 2 this year.
• Lumsden spent slightly more than he took in during what was essentially a three month period. His contributions totaled $5,202 and expenses were $4,134. He ended the reporting period with $37,297 on hand.
Among Lumsden's biggest donors were Georgia Healthcare Association PAC, $1,000; the Georgia Medical PAC, $500; HosPAC, $500; Committee for Health Care Policy, $500; and the Georgia Branch of Associated General Contractors, $500.
His expenses included a $1,391 rent payment in March for an apartment he shares near the state capitol and payments for fundraisers to Legacy Resources LLC in Oklahoma, The Sassafras Group in Gainesville and Capitol Strategy Group in Atlanta.
Rome City Schools met at 11:30 a.m. for a called board meeting Monday where they discussed personnel and potential real estate acquisitions during a closed session which lasted around 45 minutes.
The board had no announcement regarding real estate when it broke from closed session however they did approve six new hires for various system positions.
Superintendent Lou Byars gave the board an update on buses and transportation during the regular session of the meeting. The Georgia Department of Education granted the system funds to help offset the cost of a school bus, Byars said. The state uses a formula to award transportation dollars and the city school system was awarded $77,000 to put towards a bus.
Byars also brought the board up to speed on the cost of additional
transportation personnel, which includes 32 bus drivers along with a planning position and a director of transportation. The system is trying to budget $1.5 million for the drivers and two administrative positions, Byars said, which is around the amount the school system paid the City of Rome for the use of the city buses.
The system has already spent $3.2 million for the 35 new school buses — $77,000 of which will be reimbursed by the state — with the money coming from their general fund. The system still needs to find a storage location for the buses once they arrive in November, whether rented or constructed.
Byars said the system still needs 20 bus drivers and is willing to pay a $1,000 bonus for drivers who come on for a year. The system offers good benefits, competitive pay and a retirement bonus for those who work with the system for more than 10-years. Drivers will also be trained and certified through the system.
The Floyd County Schools Board of Education met for their third millage rate hearing Monday and later approved the lowered rate during the following board meeting at 8:30 a.m.
The board heard the proposed millage rate of 18.25 mills for a third time at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The rate saw no changes from the last two hearings. The millage rate is a combination of a proposed 9.480 mills for county government services and 18.25 mills for the school system.
"Even when times are tight we have been trying to give the taxpayers a break," Superintendent Jeff Wilson said.
Board members also heard from Jack Gardner, the system's new executive director of facilities, who gave a brief overview of county schools construction projects. Gardner has been with the system for five days and hails from Douglasville where he a facilities and maintenance coordinator for the Douglas County School system. Gardner says he has spent his first week getting acquainted with the system's projects as well as the schools themselves — including how to properly say Armuchee.
On the facility front, Wilson and Gardner said the abatement at Pepperell Middle has concluded and demolition will begin this week. Air quality has been checked by inspectors and no leftover asbestos was found. Wilson said the delay in the demolition was due to the abatement finishing up close to Independence Day, which delayed the inspectors.
The final numbers for the middle school have not yet been set, however Wilson said the price will fall between $19 and $20 million. Once demolition is complete, construction crews will clear the site and the board will hold off on construction until their capital relay is approved by the state. The approval is expected in early September with the start of construction following soon after.
The board also heard from Craig Ellison, executive director of technology and media services, who brought before the board a contract for a new phone system. The system's contract with AT&T is set to expire and when administrators reviewed renewing the services they found the phone company no longer carried what was needed, according to Ellison.
The proposal for the new system could cut costs significantly with the system paying around $2,700 a month for phone services instead of around $10,000 a month, which is the school's current phone bill. The large phone bill used to be paid by the federal government, Ellison said, however that program has now been suspended.
County schools will have to put up over $187,000 initially for the new system, however, after 3.7 years the system will start seeing a return on their investment Ellison said. The schools would end up saving $49,000 a year with this new phone system, Ellison added. He projected it would take about a year to get the phones switched over and the project should be done by August 2020.
Floyd County has 54,794 active registered voters this month – 400 fewer than in June.
But the decrease is "statistically insignificant," according to Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady.
"School's out, people are moving. We expect to see an increase in September," Brady told members of the Floyd County Board of Elections.
The announcement came during a discussion of how the voter rolls are updated. Brady said what some people call a purge is actually a method of clarifying a voter's status. Notifications are sent out to voters who haven't cast a ballot in three years. If they don't respond in 40 days, they're moved to inactive status.
"It's only after eight years that their registration is canceled," Brady said.
Dr. Tom Rees, who chairs the elections board, noted that people on the inactive list may still vote if they show up at the polls on election day as long as their information remains correct.
"We're in the business of trying to get people to vote," Rees said.
Brady said 3,144 "no-contact notices" went out to Floyd County voters in the latest review and 1,055 came back as undeliverable to the address on file. While state law prohibits the post office from forwarding election information, 299 of the returned cards had change-of-address stickers on them.
Those original notices were then mailed to the new address and, as of last week, Brady said 88 of the 299 came back with updated information.
Voters who didn't cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm elections can check their registration status online at the Georgia My Voter website or call the county elections office at 706-291-5167.
Oct. 7 is the deadline to register to vote in the Rome or Cave Spring elections this year. Brady said applications for mail-in ballots would be accepted as early as Sept. 26 for the Presidential Preference Primary scheduled for March 24, 2019.
Troy Potts, a second-grader at Model Elementary School