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Shelter financing options studied
Public facilities authority is an option
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Forsyth County News

Mission defined

Also at the meeting Tuesday night, the animal shelter committee created a draft mission statement: "To provide responsive, efficient and the highest quality animal care and control services that preserve and protect public and animal safety, while maximizing placement of adoptable animals."

Forsyth County could use a newly organized group to advance financing for an animal shelter facility.

Officials have previously suggested the Public Facilities Authority could be used to bond out funding for the project prior to the start of the voter-approved 1-cent sales tax extension.

The extension, which passed last month, will pay in part to build a county animal shelter.

The Forsyth County Animal Control & Shelter Committee heard some of the specifics of that funding method during its meeting Tuesday night.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt told the group that a representative of the authority, the county’s bond counsel, local government staff and the county attorney met recently to discuss ways to get the shelter project started.

"This is the best one we have at this time," Merritt said.

The authority’s purpose is to finance public buildings, which fits the bill in this case, said Mae Charles Barnes, a partner of the county’s bond counsel firm, Murray Barnes Finister.

The five-member group could issue one bond effort for the nearly $3 million shelter project, Barnes said.

The authority would then enter into an agreement with Forsyth, whereby the county would make the payments for the debt service, she said.

The payments would be made from the special purpose local option sales tax revenue.

"It’s sort of a legal structure to enable the SPLOST proceeds to be used to finance the animal shelter," Barnes said.

She estimated the process would take about 45 to 60 days after the authority approved the method.

The public facilities authority, which officially formed in August, has not yet exercised its power to provide a method to finance projects.

Committee member Lance White brought up the possibility of the county using money from its reserves and then paying that amount back once tax collections allow.

Chairman John McGruder said he felt use of the authority "sets up a very favorable situation for us."

The process would allow for more flexibility in funding, and the bonds must be backed by court validation, McGruder said.

The committee plans to review the topic again at its Jan. 17 meeting. Ultimately, however, it’s the county commission that will decide how to finance the facility.