This information is provided courtesy of the office of Giles County Executive Graham Stowe.
On June 29, the Giles County Commission passed the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget, so this report will include a few comments on the approved budget, and on some additional budget discussions ahead of us.
But first, I’d like to provide an overview of the broadband implementation going on around the county.
The most often-asked question that commissioners and I receive is “When are we getting broadband?”
This is what I know, straight from the people managing those projects from Ardmore Telephone, Pulaski Electric, and United Communications.
First a caveat. I’ve mentioned this before but it bears mentioning again … the county is not the construction manager for these broadband projects.
The county’s role was to serve as a financial intermediary for the post-COVID windfall of federal funding. The county sought grant money - which we got - and now our role is to disburse that money as the utilities reach construction milestones.
When I provide broadband updates everyone wants the answer to a very specific, tailored question, “When is broadband coming to my street?”
It’s a great question but unfortunately I don’t have that kind of update. But I can relay the update from the three providers covering Giles County, and provide contact information to reach the utilities and ask those specific questions.
All three broadband providers have this in common: each states that they’ll soon have a separate web page so potential new customers can see coverage maps and construction phasing and implementation timelines. These webpages will allow you to enter your street address and all the information for your location will be provided.
Ardmore Telephone, PES, and United Communications have told me that as soon as they have these webpages active, hopefully in the August timeframe, they’ll let me know so I can relay that information countywide.
First I’ll relay the info I’ve received from Ardmore Telephone. They’re the broadband contractor that’s bringing fiber to the southern regions of the county, those areas that won’t be covered by PES.
From their update:
• “Please direct potential new customers to 800.830.9946 to call our office or they can send an email asking to be called to firstname.lastname@example.org
• “We will have a one-on-one conversation with the customer and create an internal contract tracking record in our system.
• “If that customer has expressed interest in signing up for service, we will reach back out to that customer every 30 to 45 days to provide an update on the build progress.
• “A few weeks before installations begin, we will contact the customer once again and schedule their install.” This is the update from Pulaski Electric. If you get electric service from PES they’ll be supplying your fiber service as well.
• “Currently, customers can visit the Q&A page on the PES website for updates at https://pesenergize.com/qa
• “Soon customers will be able to input their email address and receive regular updates on the fiber expansion. The link will be forwarded when this tool is available.
• “In the meantime, please feel free to refer any project questions to email@example.com.”
In northern Giles County, broadband for Duck River Electric customers is going to be supplied by United Communications. Their update:
• “Customers in our service area can call United’s 800 number 1-800-779-2227 to sign up for future service or go to the website at United.net, click the “Check Availability” tab, and input your address to pre-register for future service.”
Shifting gears from broadband, let me provide more information on the county budget.
The county follows the same fiscal year as the state, so we rolled over into a new budget year July 1.
The Commission and Finance Office have been working on this new fiscal year budget for several months, and it was ultimately approved June 29.
Soon after I took office I raised the issue of non-profit funding, and tried to make a differentiation between funding mission-critical non-profits versus other non-profits.
From the governmental standpoint, the mission-critical non-profits included Giles County Fire & Rescue and our community libraries. So those were funded in this budget.
However, the Commission will be considering funding other non-profits in August.
I don’t want to be misunderstood when I use terms like mission-critical … for instance, isn’t the Senior Center critical? How about Kid’s Place or the Boys & Girls Club?
I get it and the commissioners get it - none of our community non-profits are non-critical. They all provide critical services.
The question is which non-profits are government obligations and which should be privately funded.
The Commission decided a few months ago that community non-profits should be able to petition for taxpayer funds, and they’ll be wrestling with that next month. I’ll keep everyone updated when the Commission holds its August hearings on funding other non-profits.
For specific budget numbers … these are the approved figures that will fund all county government services through June 30, 2024. The budget included $19.1M in the General Fund, $10.7M for the Highway Fund, and $37.6M for the School Fund.
The $19.1 M General Fund budget is roughly the same as last year. Thanks to good spending discipline, our Finance Office, working with department heads, managed to not spend about $1.6M from last year’s budget; that’s about 8% of last year's budget that will roll back into our General Fund.
It’s important to understand that annual budgets have built-in contingencies to ensure county government can respond to unforeseen emergencies.
But whatever money is unspent at the end of a fiscal year goes back into what’s called the County General Fund - you can think of this as our county savings account.
As I’ve gotten to know and hear from other county mayors, and know and hear of other counties' financial challenges, I’m thankful that we’re able to continue operating in the black. Our revenues are about the same as our budget, and we’re consistently rolling unspent funds back into the General Fund. That’s all generally good news, especially when contrasted with the concerns I hear from other counties.
We have roughly $9M in the General Fund, which sounds like a lot until we start to itemize the work list ahead of us, such as a new ambulance building, courthouse and school renovations, and other projects that I’ve been discussing the last few months.
Thanks for reading to the end! It’s difficult to strike the balance between too much and too little information … if there are budgetary particulars that I’m not covering please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org