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Residents frown on tax increase

Eural Chestang speaks to Albany City Commissioners about a proposed tax increase Tuesday during a public hearing at Albany’s downtown  Government Center. Commissioners will decide July 24 whether to raise property taxes of city residents 1.33 mills.

Eural Chestang speaks to Albany City Commissioners about a proposed tax increase Tuesday during a public hearing at Albany’s downtown Government Center. Commissioners will decide July 24 whether to raise property taxes of city residents 1.33 mills.

ALBANY -- Some city residents took advantage of two public hearings Tuesday to voice their opposition to a planned 1.33-mill property tax increase, arguing the move would hinder economic development opportunities.

The city is required by state law to hold three public hearings before its officials can vote to increase the millage rate. Two of the public hearings were scheduled Tuesday with the third planned before the commission's night meeting July 24.

Eural Chestang said that a tax increase could increase the speed at which people are fleeing the city, creating a tougher burden for those left behind.

"The population left in the city is dwindling fast. Something needs to be done to lighten the tax burden, not add to it," Chestang said. "Raising taxes isn't fair to the ones who are left behind."

William Wright, the former head of the Albany NAACP chapter, said that taxpayers and commissioners need to ask themselves whether they're really getting the return-on-investment of their tax dollars that they deserve.

"We have to get more property into the digest to give the property taxpayers some relief," Wright said. "We spend all of this money and get no real services, so I think we have to ask ourselves if we're really getting our money's worth."

Calling City Manager James Taylor's plan to raise property taxes by 1.33 mills an example of the city's "callous indifference" to the plight of its residents, Wright said there needs to be more minority participation in the city's contracting efforts.

The anti-tax sentiment at the 6 p.m. public hearing was equally as strong.

Geraldine Thrasher asked the commission to be like the majority of the taxpaying public and find a way to live within its means.

"I want to say us taxpayers have to live within a budget. The city should have to do the same thing," Thrasher said.

Thrasher said that homes are currently valued at more than they can be sold for and that, when it comes to the businesses and residents who provide the tax base, "Y'all are running them out of town."

Sarah Webster said that her mother was 92, on a fixed income and could neither afford to move nor fund a tax increase.

"I can't wait to move away from this city again," she said. "I'm sick of the entitlement mindset that the government at the federal, state and local levels are pushing. I say 'silent no more.'"

Tami McCoy, a resident of Ward IV, said she's identified several areas where the city could cut, rather than raise taxes.

"Why do we need two assistant city managers? Why are we funding 311? I get the answers I need just fine when I call the department heads directly," McCoy said. "I don't agree with funding the Civil Rights Institute ... or why the city continues to employ high-risk employees like Cpl. (Gary) Price.

"Less government is more responsive government in my book."

Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who presided over the hearings in the absence of Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, who was in the metro Atlanta area Tuesday attending a board of directors meeting of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, said 311 helps take the burden off the city's emergency call number for non-emergency calls and that it's being used as people demand better service from the city, county, and Water, Gas & Light.

Langstaff said the concept behind two assistant managers was first suggested following a study done right after former mayor Willie Adams was elected.

Under the current system, the two assistant city managers and Taylor split direct oversight over the city's 17 departments with Taylor having general day-to-day oversight over all of the departments and the managers.

Langstaff said that he couldn't speak to the Civil Rights institute question because he voted against funding both it and the Flint RiverQuarium because "I think we need to be pinching pennies."

And as for the comment about Price, who has been involved in multiple car crashes as a member of the Albany Police Department, including one that killed a passerby, Langstaff said that since the matter dealing with Price would likely be the subject of pending litigation, he wouldn't be able to render a comment.

Comments

ustaknow 1 year, 9 months ago

" On Jan. 2, 2009, 18 days before the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the fortuitously named Luis Fortuno assumed office in Puerto Rico, the first Republican governor in 50 years.

“We were closer to the abyss than most states,” Mr. Fortuno recalled in a recent interview with Deroy Murdock, a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a contributing editor with National Review online.

“When I came into office, we were facing not just the worst recession since the Thirties, but the worst budget deficit in America, proportionally. We were literally broke. We did not have enough money to meet our first payroll,” Mr. Fortuno, 51, recalled. “We had to take out a loan to meet it.” (At that point, he added, “my wife asked me if we could ask for a recount.”)

What to do? Facing a $3.3-billion deficit, Mr. Fortuno did something almost unprecedented in contemporary public finance: “We cut expenses.” He took a 10-per-cent pay cut; senior bureaucrats got a 5-per-cent reduction. He cut 20,000 public sector jobs permanently and more temporarily – saving more than $900-million. In his first year in office, he slashed government spending, in absolute dollars, by 20 per cent.

Mr. Fortuno also cut taxes. He lowered the corporate tax rate to 30 per cent from 41 per cent (with further cuts coming in each of the next two years). Personal income tax rates dropped by 25 per cent (with further cuts coming in each of the next five years).

He gave homeowners a five-year property tax holiday, and scrapped capital gains and death taxes. These reforms put a floor under property values. In 2011, existing home sales increased by 35 per cent (compared with an average decline of 7.9 per cent in the continental states); new-home sales increased by 92 per cent (compared with an average decline of 9.9 per cent in the continental states).

To do anything in the old economy, Mr. Fortuno said, “You needed to obtain 28 permits … and go to 20-plus different agencies to do that.” Today, you need go to only one agency for a permit, “or you can go to PR.gov and get it online.”

In another fundamental reform, he transferred public sector workers from “old-fashioned, statist defined-benefit pensions” to “market-friendly, defined-contribution pensions.”

The transformation of Puerto Rico’s dysfunctional economy has begun to attract attention. Retailers such as Nordstom, PetSmart, Saks Fifth Avenue and Victoria’s Secret have announced store openings in San Juan in 2012. Honeywell International and Merck & Co. have announced expansion of their manufacturing operations on the island.

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ustaknow 1 year, 9 months ago

continued: Standard & Poor’s has upgraded Puerto Rico’s credit rating to “positive” from “stable” – its first upgrade in 28 years. Moody’s took Puerto Rico bonds back to triple-A, the highest rating in 35 years. “We are moving in the right direction,” Mr. Fortuno said. “So we can keep lowering taxes.”

In three years, Puerto Rico’s budget deficit has been reduced to $600-million from $3.3-billion. In 2009, its deficit equalled 44 per cent of its revenue; in 2011, it stands at 7 per cent. In 2009, as a ratio of deficit to revenue, Puerto Rico ranked 51st among American states, at the bottom of the pack. In 2011, it ranked 15th.

Thus, the 2011 Austerity Player of the Year Award goes – drum roll, please – to Puerto Rico and to Gov. Luis Fortuno, its enlightened leader."

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whattheheck 1 year, 9 months ago

Says a lot, doesn't it. A Capitalist would say "we should follow this model" while our Communist friends in government would say "an economic engine like this should be the 51st state--we can milk this baby, there is money to be had"!

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ustaknow 1 year, 9 months ago

our economy was doing fine until 2006 when Democrats won control of congress. Since then we have entered a financial crisis, Bush Tax cuts are expiring, We have not written a budget in years, our first debt downgrade in history,GSA spending and making videos mocking tax payers, deficits are exploding, and it just keeps getting worse. In 2010 we did part one of restoring America and that was voting in a republican house and now we need the senate. Please for the sake of the economy vote in republicans and lets gt out of this nightmare.

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whattheheck 1 year, 9 months ago

Thrasher's comments are on the mark and in particular the running taxpayers out of town part. One would think that a city with so little apparent to be offered would consider that perhaps raising the already high high taxes is "piling on" to the list of negatives holding the city back.
What Albany needs is an operational audit to get into the bowels and identify ways to cut cost--the result would be like a great big enema to clean itself out.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 9 months ago

What I actually said was "Less government is responsible government". But that's ok, J.D.

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ustaknow 1 year, 9 months ago

No city should be allowed to raise taxes if you have population shrinkage. Shrinkage means people are leaving your city. To tax the population that is left more means the city is not scaling relative to population and will put an undue burden on it's tax payers.

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Amazed2 1 year, 9 months ago

Well the politicians place the people when it comes time to vote for Splost Sales tax and now the "T" Splost deal They act like it will save property owners but then they waste the tax money on stupid and unecessary projects and then come back and raise property taxes. Simply in the future we should always vote NO for any new or extentions of spost. VOTE NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO NEW TAXES

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Amazed2 1 year, 9 months ago

I am curiious also why Albany needs two layers of assistant City Managers. Sounds like to me the City Manager has it made or else we are hiring people who cannot do the job. Or maybe Wes Smith been recycled thru ADICA and other City Departments I guess they need to keep finding something for him to do. Does Valdosta, Tifton, Macon and Columbus have more than one Assistant City Manager?? curious and will try find time to make some phone calls. Also no more than what the Civic Center is used I wonder how many managers they have sitting over their behind the scenes.. Maybe our recent downtown manager has enough experience to look after seldom used Civic Center. After all how much is there really to do downtown. I guess he visits the restaurants and meets and greets.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 9 months ago

Mr . Blair hangs out in Verge. Don't look for him in his office because he is usually at Verge. Parks & Rec. is over the Civic Center now.

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