Lowndes County Not Recession-Proof

Sea Island Co. had a reputation for immunity to economic whims while over-borrowing and over-expansion? Hm, they’re not the only ones. As recently as 28 April 2008 the VDT published a story “Analyst: Valdosta ‘recession-proof'”:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, business consultant and president of JobBait.com Mark Hovind ranked every metropolitan statistical area across the country, highlighting those he deemed to be “recession-proof.” The city of Valdosta was the only Georgia city to make the list.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hovind compared job expansion in a number of key industries and workforce growth in various metropolitan areas. He came up with a list of about two-dozen areas where jobs outpaced the workforce during the recessions of 1990 and 2001, and in the past year, and figured they’d likely fare well in another downturn.

This was one week after Billy Bruce published in the VDT, Lowndes area not immune from home foreclosures”, in which he countered local boosterism by looking at the record:
First, let’s review the numbers in Lowndes County. The Daily Times is the local legal organ or publication for posting legal ads, so the accuracy of these reports should be fairly close to the real situation homeowners are facing here.
And the real situation was foreclosures got turbulent and went up in 2007.

Billy Bruce suddenly vanished from the VDT shortly after that, but that didn’t change the situation.

For example, the county government finds itself in dire straits, according to Malynda Fulton’s 27 Feb 2010 report on the County Commission retreat:

During her overview of the county’s financial situation, Lowndes County Finance Director Stephanie Black indicated that the labor market is down and nothing is concrete as far as a rebound. Nonetheless, the unemployment rate in the Valdosta area remains approximately 2 percent lower than the nationwide and statewide rates.

The county’s general fund revenues are down, Black said. There has been no growth in the digest and no growth in the sales tax.

“Although we have budgeted conservatively, collections for the local option sales tax remain far below the prior year,” Black added.

As of Feb. 23, property tax collections were down by at least six or seven percent.

With other funds, such as SPLOST VI, borrowing money from the general fund, Black said there is little interest income being generated as well.

Expenditures are in line this year, Black said, but some things may still have to be cut from the current budget.

This after the county was relatively prudent; it kept, if I recall correctly, half a year’s surplus in cash. However, the county economy remains rather dependant on construction (“nothing is concrete”; very funny). And the county did spend on road and bridge projects that maybe weren’t needed, and on a new building for itself downtown. Some of this they funded by taking out a bond on future SPLOST VI revenues. It seemed like a good idea at the time; they got a low interest rate on the bond. But the county turned out not to be immune to the recession after all.

Has the county adapted?

The primary focus was road construction and paving for the next year.
Hm, nothing about finishing the jobs left partly done, like putting in speed humps to fix speedways the county created.

Fletcher estimated a July completion date on the second phase of the jail and an April completion date on the judicial and administrative complex. He also discussed planning for a possible 260- to 270-space parking deck on the recently acquired Griner property.
Who could have foreseen that parking would be needed?

Speaking of missing facilities related to the new complex, where are the solar photovoltaic panels for electricity? Or the solar thermal panels for heating? For that matter, in a building of that size, ground loop for heating and cooling might have made sense. Any of these might reduce future expenditures, could probably be partly funded through stimulus money, and would encourage local business.