'05 SPLOST will exceed projections

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON — The final numbers aren't in yet, but it's clear SPLOST 2005 will exceed revenue projections, Chairman Kathy Morgan announced Tuesday night.

SPLOST was projected to bring in $58.8 million, and that has already been collected, based on revenue reports through the month of May. The current SPLOST expires at the end of June, meaning there will be additional funds that will go toward paying off county debt, Morgan said. The final revenue amount won't be known until August, as reports from the Georgia Department of Revenue are typically two months behind actual collections. Collections for SPLOST 2011 begin July 1.

In other news, the board agreed to remove the stop sign at the railroad crossing on Covington Bypass. The Norfolk Southern rail line is no longer in use and motorists have complained about stop signs at crossings throughout the county holding up traffic. Stop signs in the city have been removed and crossings paved.

Morgan said the stop sign must be replaced with a sign notifying motorists the rail line is out of service. She has put in a request to remove stop signs at all other county crossings but has not yet received permission from the railroad, she said.

Crossings will need to be paved, but "I will have to see if we can afford it," she said. If Norfolk Southern should ever take up the rails and damage the roadway, the railroad would be responsible for repairs, Morgan said.

Commissioners also approved Tuesday a new insurance plan with provider Cigna that eliminates PPO and POS options and includes only the HMO plan. The move was in order to keep rates flat for the county; Cigna recently reported that if the plan was left as is, rates would increase by 27 percent.

Gary Massey, the county's insurance consultant, said keeping rates flat would necessitate a financial impact to employees. About 34 employees and family members participate in the PPO and POS plans, which cover out-of-network providers, he said. Those on the plan could opt to keep it when the county switched to an HMO in 2004. There are 113 employees and 372 family members participating in the HMO.

Massey said at that time there was public mistrust of HMOs that has since waned. The requirement that clients have a primary care physician to act as gatekeeper directing access to medical services has been removed and the same physicians in PPO and POS networks are included in the HMO, he said.

Employees will see an increase in their deductible from $250 to $750 and an additional $150 deductible for hospital confinement.

Finally, the board approved a resolution temporarily approving necessary day to day expenses, including payrolls and salaries, with no other expenditures, until a budget can be adopted on July 19. The current fiscal year expires June 30. Commissioners reached a consensus on next year's budget Monday but must advertise for 14 days and hold public hearings before it can be officially adopted. The resolution will allow the county to continue to operate during the gap between the beginning of the fiscal year and the budget adoption.