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BREAKING NEWS: Commissioners propose tax increase
by Josh Lurie
Aug 21, 2013 | 2978 views | 10 10 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During their third 6 p.m. meeting this week, three Jones County commissioners expressed various levels of interest in raising taxes to expand services.

The meeting was the first back for County Administrator Mike Underwood, who was among three employees whose future with the county seemed bleak just two weeks ago.

Underwood presented commissioners with three options. Those included keeping the same millage and using $303,000 of reserve funds to balance the budget; using a rollback millage to meet the decrease in the county’s tax digest; or raise the millage enough to cover the county’s expenditures for the next fiscal year.

At first, commissioner Larry Childs seemed ready to make a motion to use the fund balance to meet the current budget with an effort to find cuts later.

Commissioner Daylon Martin then made an appeal to invest money for the county’s future and end years of cuts, which would include investment in the county’s industrial park, recreation improvements, provide funds requested by the county’s department heads, and purchase 12-year-old turnout gear needed by volunteer firefighters.

Commissioner Jonathan Pitts echoed Martin’s ideas while Childs agreed that both the Development Authority and Recreation Department needed the additional funds.

Martin proposed a mill for the Development Authority, which would pay for the bond payment on the land as well as a sewer system to serve future industries and the rest of the southern side of the county. He suggested three-quarters of a mill each to fund recreation, department requests, and a half-mill going toward firefighting equipment, for a total of three mills.

Underwood said, with a tax increase in mind, the commissioners needed to make their intentions known so that a meeting could be scheduled to set a tentative millage rate and begin the process to advertise the necessary public hearings, which would take at least 21 days to complete.

Underwood asked if the commissioners wanted a tax increase and if they wanted to schedule a meeting to set a tentative millage rate, to which Commissioner Tommy Robinson responded, “no and no.”

Chairman Preston Hawkins expressed interest in seeing the numbers to have an understanding of the details of the proposal. While there was no firm commitment from the commissioners to increase taxes, an agreement was reached to meet at 11 a.m. Monday to set a tentative millage rate. Once the process is started, the final millage can be lowered but can not be further increased without starting the process again.

For more details on tonight’s meeting and the result of Monday’s, pick up a copy of next week’s newspaper.

Do you support raising the county's taxes to increase services?


Comments
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Steven Smith
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August 22, 2013
So many comments from people I didn't see at any of the budget meetings. The cuts proposed at those meetings were austere. In this country we have a sense that there is some sort of right to community services. There is nothing in the Bill of Rights that says the county has to do anything with roads, provide water, or even put your house out when it's on fire. These are services that we, as citizens, have agreed collectively to pay for. There are revenue generating sources coming up for vote and more that should. When the time comes, vote for those. Help to bring industry into our town so that property taxes aren't the only source of income. Come to meetings, see where your money is really going first hand. Come out and help with those "volunteer" groups. I ran one for a bit and didn't see you guys there either.

So, what it sounds like is, something should be done, but someone else should do it; and I want services, but I don't want to pay for them. What else do you pay for that the price never goes up? Why do you think the services we all enjoy should be any different. Don't the county vehicles run on gas too? Shouldn't people get paid to do a job? The materials they use aren't made by elves in some magical tree somewhere, we have to pay for those.

Come to meetings. Listen to the real situation and offer real solutions if you have them. Or, I agree. Don't raise taxes, ever. Then as the funds dwindle, stop offering services. Simple.

The people have spoken. Government is too bloated. Back out of the overtaxed citizens lives completely. We'll guard each others houses, and pitch in to help our neighbor when they have fires or drive them to the hospital when they are ill. We'll all get wells and septic tanks so that we don't need those services. We'll all pinky swear to get along and obey the law. We'll keep up the our shared spaces with the strong spirit of volunteerism that we've shown so far...what could possibly go wrong?
Strategic Vision
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August 22, 2013
I certainly understand not wanting taxes to increase. The reality is that in the current environment it is eventually unavoidable. For every $1 received from residential taxes, $1.23 is spent on services for the residents. The same $1 taken in from businesses has a $.65 expenditure to the business. If we do not invest to attract new business eventually services such as Education, Law Enforcement, Fire, Water etc. will have to be cut or we will pay more taxes to support those service. Today we are in a situation of deficit spending. We cannot continue to reach into a reserve fund to maintain the place we live. We can pay now and invest for the future or pay later without the help of additional industry. Jones Co has primarily a residential tax base. When we spend $1.23 for every $1 taken it, eventually it will catch up to us. The math is very clear, the more industry we bring to Jones Co, the less tax burden there is for the residents. To attract industry we need locations that are appealing to Industry. Locations that have adequate water and sewer, that have rail spurs and are site ready. Jones Co is in a great position being very close to two major Interstate systems, I-75 and I-16. With the Savannah port expansion looming, we could be well positioned to take advantage of the growth that will accompany that expansion as well as the existing movements in and out of the Savannah port. We need to position ourselves as a viable location for industry to invest in for the future of Jones Co.
Chap Nelson
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August 22, 2013
“We contend that for a goverment to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

― Winston Churchill

Wasteful spending on individual commissioner special interest is the driving force behind the budget problem.Much of the spending they want to add or continue are or could be SPLOST expenses.
Nancy Nash
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August 25, 2013
So true Chap Nelson!
Barbara Livingston
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August 22, 2013
My family moved to Jones county 30 years ago for two reasons: low property taxes and easy access to work via hwy 129. Mortgage rates were above 11%.

Today, my mortgage rate is below 5%. The mortgage Principle and interest payment is very affordable.

DUE TO PROPERTY TAX INCREASES over the past 4-5 years, this monthly mortgage payment has increased by 35%!

How can the commissioners even CONSIDER an increase in taxes when they see that foreclosures are increasing weekly???

THe Jones County News public notice section used to be one page. Now it is 5 or 6 pages, almost a section in itself!

Everyone has had to cut their budgets just to keep up the house payments. People have suffered job losses and reduction in salaries.

Most people are down to 'skin and bones', hoping there won't be some unexpected health or repair expense that will take them under.

Jones County needs to get down to 'skin and bones'. Maintain the water and sewage systems, keep the roads in reasonable shape, and keep our residents safe. All of this other stuff: recreation, beautify the city, and other 'extras' can be postponed or cut. Let the citizens and businesses donate money for the extras. The garden club and other groups volunteer their services. Seek out more volunteer groups.

There is more available 'time' than 'money' that the citizens of Jones County can afford to give.
Hopeful for vision
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August 21, 2013
I think in tough times, we can wait a bit longer for recreation. But Jones County needs to attract industry. And we must equip our firemen. It's time to invest in our future.
Anita Skinner
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August 21, 2013
Jones County taxes should not be raised under any circumstances. The taxes right now are outrageous. If you own a home in the county that is valued at $150,000 which is your average home the taxes are $1,878 a year which equates to $157 a month. If you live in the city of Gray the taxes are $2,537 a year which equates to $211 a month. If we keep raising taxes people won't continue to come to Jones County to make their home here. They will go to Houston County or Monroe County where the taxes are lower. Jones County isn't the only county in the area that has good schools. The raising of taxes must stop and all government departments need to cut their expenses immediately. We will be shooting ourselves in the foot if we continue to raise taxes. Enough is enough. If there's not enough revenue coming in then expenses have to be cut period.
Jones Countian
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August 22, 2013
Interesting. I don't think I have ever seen you at any of the Commissioners' meetings Ms. Skinner. You clearly don't understand the current budget situation at the County. Try attending some meetings and be informed.
Jack Smith
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August 22, 2013
This is insane. You are talking about a 25% increase in the milliage rate. I did not elect my representative to pick my pocket!Families and business have learned to make do. Our Commissioners need to take the same approach. If they can not run the county on the present revenue they need to resign and let us elect commissioners who can!
Nancy Nash
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August 25, 2013
I agree with most of the other comments. All families have to live within their means. If we don't have the money, we should cut expenses. Teachers and other educators have suffered through many furlough days and with additional cuts in spending the JCBOE balanced their budget. Cuts are painful but sometimes necessary. I agree that our fire department needs new equipment. The citizens benefit from a well-equipped fire department with improved insurance rates. I greatly appreciate our volunteer fire fighters. As to the anonymous 'Jones Countian,' neither to I attend Commission meetings. I'm not sure that attending meetings is a requirement in order to expect your commissioners to be fiscally responsible. Kudos to you that you attend every meeting! I understand that the millage rate might have to be raised slightly but NOT for projects that can be postponed. We have continued to borrow from the fund balance until it is close to depletion. Please consider all options rather than the easy and obvious. Thank you for your diligence in being good stewards of county tax payers money!!