9 total votes.
With just a few weeks left before local government budgets for the next fiscal year have to be submitted to the state, officials are looking under rocks previously unturned in an effort to avoid any increases in local property taxes.
There are whispers among some elected officials who sit on the City Commission that some thought has been turned to the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission as a mechanism that may be able to prevent a proposed 1.33-millage increase.
WG&L was once famously called the "goose that laid the golden egg" for city leaders by former city commissioner Arthur Williams. And, as it turns out, it may end up laying a whopper.
In looking at electric rates and property taxes, there is a precedent that would allow city leaders to raise utility rates to offset the city's portion of taxpayer's property tax bills.
If the proposed 1.33-mill rate increase goes through, property taxes are expected to rise to $14.5 million in the city's $100 million spending plan.
If city officials wanted to do away with property taxes for homeowners, WG&L would have to raise its electrical rates by about 15 percent to generate the $14.5 million needed to offset the loss of property taxes, an increase of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to WG&L Finance Director John Vansant III.
For me, that would mean that the electricity portion of my utility bill would increase by about $15 this month. If that remains the average over the course of a year, it would translate into a total yearly increase of somewhere between $180 and $240.
And since the city portion of my last property tax bill was $252, it would result in a net gain.
But there would be a lot of variables at play in terms of how switching to a utility-only form of taxation would impact the residents of the city.
The dreaded tax assessments would go away, but instead homeowners and renters alike would have to focus on the consumption of electricity as the main determinant of how much money would end up going into city coffers.
Those who benefit from writing off taxes on personal income tax returns would lose that perk, and those who live in the city but are in Georgia Power's territory would get a real coup by having their obligation for city property taxes stripped without an increased power rate.
But on the flip side, the rate increase would put WG&L's more in line with Georgia power. According to Vansant, summer rates would be just below those of Georgia Power's while winter rates would likely sit just above Georgia Power's.
According to the state Public Service Commission's website, Albany's electrical rates currently sit among the lowest in the state. For 500 kw consumption, WG&L is the eighth lowest.
If the power-cost increase were to happen, it would place WG&L as the 35th lowest in rates among utilities in the state, still ahead of Georgia Power's position up in the 60s.
Then there is the moral question.
Many of the residents of the city find themselves renting or leasing older housing stock that is poorly weatherized and rarely maintained.
Slum lords entice the poor and disadvantaged by offering dirt cheap rent, but neglect to tell people that — because they have almost no insulation, outdated HVAC units and ancient windows and doors — they'll pay triple their rent in utility costs.
If WG&L is allowed to go up, it will be these people who are hurt the most. While property tax opponents point to them as not paying taxes, the reality is that most property owners factor tax costs into the rental payments charged to tenants.
A $600 bill that is nearly impossible to pay would jump to $660, while those who live in newer or more weatherized and energy-efficient homes reap the benefits of no property tax.
It's a simple idea with complex implications.
Tell us what you think. Vote on a poll at Albanyherald.com and tell us if you'd be willing to drop the city portion of your property tax for a 15 percent increase in your power bill.
Email government reporter J.D. Sumner at firstname.lastname@example.org.