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County commission votes to raise unincorporated area taxes

Richard Thomas, a concerned citizen, speaks to the county commission about a proposed tax increase during a public hearing Monday.

Richard Thomas, a concerned citizen, speaks to the county commission about a proposed tax increase during a public hearing Monday.

ALBANY, Ga. — In a split decision, the Dougherty County Commission voted Monday to increase ad valorem taxes on those who own property in the unincorporated area of the county for the first time since 2002. The commission also unanimously agreed to reform the budget process to avoid future increases.

The vote was 4-2 with Commissioners John Hayes and Ewell Lyle voting against. Commissioner Muarlean Edwards was absent from the meeting with a medical problem, Chairman Jeff Sinyard said.

The vote means that county citizens with property outside the city of Albany will see their property taxes go up by 2 mills. While the dollar amount will vary, that increase means that a property owner whose home is valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $80 per year in taxes.

Hayes and Lyle, both members of the county's Finance Subcommittee that voted to pass the budget prepared by County Administrator Richard Crowdis along to the full commission for consideration, each said that he didn't believe the county had done enough to avoid having to raise taxes, albeit for different reasons.

Hayes reiterated his stance that the county had to look in more creative places for additional revenues.

"My vote was not in rebellion with what the committee had done," Hayes said. "Whether or not more could've been done is where I'm conflicted. ... Putting an additional burden on the taxpaying public is hard and something I don't know how to do."

Lyle, meanwhile, has pushed his colleagues on the commission to cut spending to whatever levels will accommodate the revenues that already exist.

"Several people have articulately stated that this is really nothing more than a stop-gap measure at best," Lyle said. "When do we start to put the brakes on here?"

Commissioner Lamar Hudgins, who heads the county's Finance Committee, argued with the notion offered by some who have voiced disdain with the commission for considering a tax increase that the county has had a history of raising taxes by pointing to the millage history in the unincorporated area.

"The last time the millage rate was increased in that budget was 10 years ago," Hudgins said. "We don't have a history of increasing the millage rate. It's just not there. Our choices here aren't good. It's like giving you the option to either be hanged or shot, but I'm not going to jeopardize the public safety of the people of Dougherty County just so I can throw my arms back and say that I didn't vote for a tax increase."

The commission didn't have to wait long to get the first semblance of budget reform started.

In response to the budget issues that prompted the commission to vote to raise the millage rate, Commissioner Gloria Gaines offered a resolution that would require county staff to develop meaningful budget reform and present it to the commission for approval no later than January.

The resolution passed unanimously.

The votes came after the last of three public hearings was held in which three people took to the podium to criticize the commission's consideration of a tax increase.

Charles Westbrook, who has been a fixture at the county finance meetings, asked commissioners to consider their proposed plan for a tax increase as a medical procedure.

"What are you going to do, bleed to death or fix the problem?" Westbrook said. "The unincorporated area is bleeding to death, and a tax increase will not fix the problem."

Richard Thomas, a former candidate for the commission, had some tough words for the board as well as some suggestions that included a fresh look at consolidating city and county governments, creating a county fire department, redefining tax exemptions and privatizing Public Works.

"I understand that demand for services of a municipality do not change with bad times; however, neither is the county an employment agency or babysitter for non-essential personnel, especially when we are all laying off employees and tightening our belts," Thomas said.

Thomas also spoke of dealing with the "hoodlums" who have threatened the way of life for people within the county, recalling a conversation he had with a friend in Sylvester whom he said predicted how bad times would be when children born to drug-addicted mothers grew up.

"And now we're seeing it. The crack babies and meth babies are growing up into uneducatable teens who are reproducing," Thomas said. "We've got to disincentivize these kinds of pregnancies through a partnership with the health department."

Specifically, he talked of birth control devices for girls and paying them $100 per month as long as they stay in school, graduate and don't get pregnant.

While former Albany City Commissioner Laurie Jenkins didn't specifically speak against a property tax increase, she did take to the open mic as an opportunity to speak against the upcoming special-purpose local-option transportation sales tax question on the July 31 ballot.

Jenkins said that residents of the unincorporated area were already saddled with enough of a financial burden and didn't need the T-SPLOST or the property tax increase.

"It seems wrong to me, vulgar even, to run people off of their property," Jenkins said, speaking of a proposal to widen Georgia Highway 133 from Albany to Moultrie, a project that would require the purchase of rights-of-way through private property. "I know Mr. (Spencer) Lee (the Dougherty County attorney) doesn't believe the two are interconnected, but they are."

Comments

Moe 2 years, 1 month ago

Being Phoebe Putney's representative on the County Commission isn't enough. Sinyard raises our taxes. That'll help the economy!

At least we get to see our tax dollars put to good use in the Dougherty County Fool System.

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Cartman 2 years, 1 month ago

Hey Commissioners! The economy sucks. We know revenues are down. You have to spend less money! When you raise taxes on us, we get the double whammy. Our revenues are still down and now our taxes are now higher too. Tax revenue is like drugs. Just say "No".

Jeff Sinyard couldn't care less. Phoebe butters his bread.

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Amazed2 2 years, 1 month ago

Well I got this information for you on how the county tax department waste money and time. Kind of nuts and stupid. I finally sold my house back in April of this year and I moved out of state 350 miles away. In June I recieved a letter from the Dougherty County Tax Department that on the outside indicated Official Business. Well the letter was about HomeStead Exemption for my former house that sold 2 months earlier. Guess I was puzzled cause I did not give Dougherty County Tax Dept my new out of state address. The purpose of the letter was verify eligibility for Homestead Exemption. It had a few short questions. So I simple wrote on the sheet I do not own this house please contact the new owner at this address. The new owner lives there no me. Well about 2 weeks later I got another Official Business Envelope from the Dougherty County Tax Dept. The formal letter was advising me that based on the answers on the questionaire that I was not eligible for Home Stead Exemption. Well NO """""""""" I sold it and the county must have got my new address from the real estate closing papers and sent this to me 2 states away. Da!! I sold the damm this and go the heck out and these dummies are still processiing letters to me and using taxpayer $$ to buy postage at $.45 each plus envelopes plus stupid people's salaries in the tax department to take time to keep sending me letters about my HomeStead Exemption rights for a house I dont even own. Dear DOCO Tax department did it ever occur to you to mail it to the address of the house in DOCO and to the new owner listed on the property deed.I bet I am not the only one getting these letters. GLad to be out now if I stop getting Homestead Exemption letters from DOCO tax dept that would be nice!!!

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whattheheck 2 years, 1 month ago

Richard Thomas and others need to think twice before suggesting a fresh look at consolidation. Albany's finances are treading on the edge of serious problems in the next few years and I doubt that he would like to buy in on this problem.

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Progressive 2 years, 1 month ago

Consolidation is the right answer. We just do not have the right leaders in place for the City and County to make it work. Too many racist views and not enough leaders that can think how it would work for the benefit of the entire community. Anytime there are duplications of services that exists between the City and County, there is room for reducing expenses and making our government more efficient. We just need a change in leadership so that we remove the dishonest, shallow-thinking, and archaic mind sets that we have sitting on these Boards today.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 1 month ago

As a great man once said "I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!!"

Vote the BASTARDS out of office!

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Amazed2 2 years, 1 month ago

Well I hear the Lee County Commissioners are considering lowering taxes about 1 mil. That would really boost growth considering all the mess in Albany and all the spending abuses in Albany and Dougherty COunty. Lee County all you have to do is make a small reduction in taxes and then turn the home builders loose. They will build and in a matter of 2 to 3 years Dougherty County will empty into Lee County.

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