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Cobb Gets AAA Bond Rating

The county is in strong financial standing, Chairman Tim Lee said Tuesday.

In a time when some local governments are close to filing for bankruptcy, Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee said Tuesday that his county is thriving.

Cobb, which recieved an unqualified or clean opinion on its Comprehensive Annual Plan audit, has the lowest millage rate in the metro Atlanta area, added 3 percent to the general fund reserve and 5 percent to its fire district fund reserve. 

And, in most areas, the county's revenues for fiscal year 2012 not only exceeded expenditures but also exceeded what county officials originally had budgeted. For example, in the General Fund, revenues came in at $327.5 million, up from the $325.8 million originally budgeted. And, expenditures came in at $313.3 million, $17.3 million less than what county officials had budgeted.

"This is an outstanding report for fiscal year 2012," Lee said during Tuesday's commission meeting. "We've made the tough decisions. Our expenditure controls are what contributed a lot to the variances. You can't find a better financial position in any county in the metro area. A lot of counties in this country are looking at bankruptcy, and we're in a very strong financial position." 

Cobb received AAA ratings from Moody's for both General Obligation and Water System Revenue, something that Director/Comptroller James Pehrson said has only been attained by 39 counties in the country.

"This rating speaks very well to the county as a whole," Pehrson said.

And, the county expects to pay off all its general obligation bonds by the end of 2018.

"We anticipate the millage rate to go down significantly in 2018," Pehrson said.

The board also voted to close the Hattie G. Wilson Library on Lemon Street and transfer its staff and resources to the Central Library on Roswell Street effective Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. In addition, the youth services department at the Central Library will be renamed the Hattie Gaines Wilson Youth Services Department.

County Manager David Hankerson told the board that library patronage has declined since the closing of the Fort Hill area.

"We vowed not to close it down until the last resident moved out of Fort Hill," Hankerson said.

The Central Library is located less than a mile from the Lemon Street area.

In other business, the commissioners approved an appeal by an Applebee's employee who said his application for a work permit was denied due to his criminal history. However, Chester John said that he's changed since his arrest for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute five years ago, and his arrests on charges of financial transaction card theft and entering an auto even earlier.

"I'm not the child I was before," Johns told the board. "I'm a man now. I have responsibilities. I have a family. I have God in my heart now."

Johns, who worked for Applebee's in Toccoa for four years before moving back to Marietta, said he needs the work permit to be promoted to a manager. He currently works at the restaurants off of Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw and on Dallas Highway in West Cobb.

District 3 Commissioner Joann Birrell said she was concerned by the fact Johns omitted several of his prior charges on his application -- something Johns said was done because he was unsure of all the dates and not in an attempt to hide his past. In fact, he said he told a Cobb County Police Department sergeant his arrest record when he was trying to figure out what charges he needed to list.

An original motion by Birrell to approve the appeal with a start date of June 1 failed with Birrell and District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid voting in favor, and District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott, District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham and Lee voting against.

"Applebee's may move on to someone else, and then he loses out," Ott said. "Either we give it to him or we don't. I think delaying it until June would be a mistake."

As part of the approval, Johns must give the commissioners an update on his work status and family before his permit is renewed in October.

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