AMERICA’S INDEPENDENCE–FREEDOM & LIBERTY

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

July 4, 2015

american-freedom

 

“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” – Robert J. McCracken

 

 

 

The significance of the Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the American political tradition. It articulates the fundamental ideas that form the American nation: All men are created free and equal and possess the same inherent, natural rights. Legitimate governments must therefore be based on the consent of the governed and must exist “to secure these rights.”

The Declaration has three parts—the famous Preamble, a list of charges against King George III, and a conclusion. The Preamble summarizes the fundamental principles of American self-government. The list of charges against the king presents examples of the violation of those principles. The stirring conclusion calls for duty, action, and sacrifice.

If you have not ever read the Declaration of Independence or have forgotten exactly what it says, you can read a copy here.

 

The story of our National Anthem–The Star Spangled Banner: 

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”—Ronald Reagan

 TWG

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KAREN DEGGES—MASTER MANIPULATOR

July 1, 2015

Queen Degges

Why isn’t the audit for the year ended 6/30/14 done yet? Ask Karen Degges, then ask again a month or two later and you’ll get different answers. Her main job is to make excuses and cast blame on anyone but herself. She is a master manipulator of the truth and the facts.

Despite the fact that the citizens and BOC have been told repeatedly that the audit would be ready by 6/30/15 (6 months past the due date), Karen Degges has now informed us all in an email to former Comm. Cox, that it won’t be ready until August 3, 2015.

On June 29, 2015, at 8:47 AM, Karen Degges <kdegges@jaspercountyga.org> wrote:

Alan, the audit has been held up for the past month waiting on a completed audit from one of our component units (that uses a different auditor from the County).  Ours can’t be closed until we have that, or else we would have to deal with significant repercussions.  We had to initially request an extension due to the mess the books were left in by an employee who was completely in over her head and lacked the experience and education necessary for such complex work.  For that matter, Mike Benton has cleaned up accounting errors going back to 2010 in an effort to finally get the County’s financial house in order and keep it that way.  Almost everything is not as it is portrayed by the TWG or just the regular old rumor mill.  The audit is scheduled to be presented to the Board and citizens on the August 3rd BOC meeting.  I invite you all to attend.

 

Let’s look at these assertions by Karen Degges.

  • Now, after all this time (over a year) the county is waiting on an audit from a component unit? Really? Which component unit is that? It is not economic development, nor 911, nor JCWSA. Of course Degges never says which one, she just throws out blame and excuses. And up until this email she wrote on 6/29/15, this excuse was never mentioned by Benton or Degges when asked when the audit would be ready. 
  • The books were left in a mess by an employee—an employee that was under the direction of “Financial Director” Karen Degges. An employee that worked in the Newton County finance department with no problems. The real problem is folks, Karen Degges is in over her head and has no clue what is going on with the bookkeeping or finances. 
  • Mike Benton is such an expert that he has gone back to 2010 and cleaned up accounting errors? Really? You mean the auditor left accounting errors when the audit was done, submitted, and accepted by the State? Really hard to believe that one, Karen.  Maybe Mr. Benton ought to get busy on the present set of books instead of worrying about books that have already been audited. 

Karen Degges’ also now takes credit for finding the evidence and calling in the GBI on Sherry Braley.

On June 29, 2015, at 8:47 AM, Karen Degges <kdegges@jaspercountyga.org> wrote:

By the way, I contacted the Sheriff and asked him to call in the GBI the minute I felt we had enough evidence to prove our case.  We are documenting everything so that we can file a claim with the bonding company, and get any missing funds back for the County.

We don’t buy a word of it!! If Karen Degges was gathering evidence on Sherry Braley, and the dates were from March 2013 through June 2015, why did she give Sherry Braley two back-to-back raises and put her over Animal Control in December 2014? (See Animal Control Money Seems to be Missing)

Karen Degges awarded Sherry Braley $2.83 an hour in pay raises in a 3 month period from September 2014 to December 2014 and put her over Animal Control where she had access to cash money. If Karen Degges was the Forensic Accountant she has said she is, it wouldn’t take 2 years to find these discrepancies. Additionally, each time something came up about Ms. Braley not being at work, not returning calls, not enforcing the codes, Karen Degges was the first to defend and commend Sherry Braley. Yep, folks, this is the County Manager that all of a sudden has enough evidence to do something about missing money!

 

AND OF COURSE, IT IS STILL LORRI SMITH’S FAULT—

Karen Degges always has to have someone to blame because she and her Board of Commissioners is the best ever. If it’s not so, then the Master Manipulator just makes up stuff to make it so.

In another email to former Comm. Cox:

From: Karen Degges [mailto:kdegges@jaspercountyga.org]
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2015 12:02 PM
To: ‘Alan Cox';
Cc: ‘Doug Luke'; ‘Carl Pennamon'; ‘Gene Trammel'; ‘Bruce Henry'; ‘Craig Salmon’
Subject: RE: Jasper County

 Alan, I am not trying to throw you under the bus by any means, but there is much more to every story than you are getting through the TWG.  Newton County had two open audits they couldn’t close (and they were going into their 3rd audit year), because their books were a train wreck.  Jasper County hired their top two finance people, their Finance Director and their Staff Accountant.  Newton County brought in new people and now they are back where they should be

 Any bets the BOC didn’t take time to verify any of this malarkey the Master Manipulator put out in these 2 emails? Of course not! For 2 years Karen Degges has led this BOC around like little dogs on a leash. They never question her, or make her verify anything she tells them. They just look incompetent and foolish.

Board of Confusion 2

So, when Jasper County hired Lorri Smith, Newton County supposedly had two open audits and they were going into the third audit year. Don’t you know the Newton County BOC would love to know all about that because it would be news to them.   When Ms. Smith was hired by Jasper County, Newton County offered her many more thousand dollars to stay on. Ms. Smith was the financial manager in Newton County from September 2003 to September 2010, when she was hired by Jasper County.

Additionally, Jasper County had never had an award for financial excellence until Lorri Smith was in charge of the finances, and most assuredly Jasper County won’t be getting one for FY14.

Jasper County has just gone through its second budget process without an audit available from the first full year this BOC was in charge of the budget—7/1/13 to 6/30/14. So far there’s money missing, a GBI investigation, an employee arrested, numerous errors that have had to be corrected with numerous budget amendments, and more delays. Karen Degges was the financial director for the county and supervisor of Sherry Braley all during this time. IT IS TIME FOR KAREN DEGGES TO GO!!!

Take ActionTake Action

 

Citizens, we are asking you to show up at the July 6, 2015 BOC meeting at 6:00PM and become the Vocal Majority. Karen Degges needs to be terminated! Enough is enough!  It is time the Jasper County BOC acts to bring some respect back for the truth in Jasper County instead of the continued manipulation of the facts.

 

 

TWG

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Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in Animal Control, County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NOTEPADS FOR THE BOC ON THE AGENDA AGAIN?

June 29, 2015

Cell phone

The agenda for BOC meetings change so much that we save them as version 1, 2, 3, etc. On Friday (6/26/15) the first version of the agenda was posted with the following item under Old Business.     

 Note Pad Options – Product Demonstrations

It is hard to believe that our commissioners are still intent on the taxpayers buying notepads for them. It is also hard to believe that they would have to have a “demonstration” as to how to use one. Commissioners should buy their own notepads if they want one.

After an employee arrest for theft, an ongoing GBI investigation, and the 6/30/14 audit still not ready, at least one commissioner must have thought they didn’t need this controversy as well. As of this evening, this item has been removed from the agenda.

Other important items on the agenda:

  1. Landfill discussion and action—close the landfill, set up a solid waste authority, bring in regional waste?

  2. City-County Consolidation—do county taxpayers need to take on City debt? Do city residents need to lose their voice?

  3. Adopt the Curbside Fee for 2015—amount taxed to citizens—with a $100,000 profit per year, do we need to be charged more?

  4. Adopt the JCWSA Fire hydrant fee for 2015—this is to help “pay back” the $50,000 this BOC gave JCWSA to bail them out

  5. Adopt Tax Levy for 2015—your taxes will be going up because values have gone up

 We all have an opportunity to let the BOC know how we feel about our increasing property taxes and these other issues, and according to the BOC, unless you show up at the meeting on 7/6/15, you agree with higher taxes and anything else they decide to do.

TO THE SILENT MAJORITY—We need you and all citizens at the meeting on 7/6/15 at 6:00PM. Make plans now to be there!

You can see the entire agenda at this link.

TWG

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Posted in City, County, Landfill, Property taxes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

ANIMAL CONTROL MONEY SEEMS TO BE MISSING

FAULTY FIGURES BEING USED TO MAKE ANIMAL CONTROL LOOK “BAD” TO BOC

June 28, 2015

JCAC

Why did Karen Degges and Sherry Braley tell the BOC during the budget hearings that Animal Control was over budget by April? Sherry Braley also told the BOC in May that “she” wasn’t letting Animal Control spend anything else because they had already spent their entire budget. Mike Benton, CFO, reiterated that statement.

Is this true? Sometimes open records verify what is suspected.

Look at the YTD Revenue Report for Animal Control:

In this report you will see that $3345 has been brought in at Animal Control during the budget year. It also shows that $190 was deposited during June.

An open records request was filed for copies of the June deposits for Animal Control, and the information was verified by Mike Benton. He stated that there were no checks or cash that had not been deposited on 6/26/15.

If that is true, what happened to the rest of the $900+ of Animal Control money that was turned over to Sherry Braley, Animal Control director, during June? And how much money did Animal Control actually bring in during FY15? We suspect a good bit more than $3345.

Look at the YTD expense report for Animal Control:

On this report you can see that “Personnel” is not overspent. In fact as of 6/26/15, there is still over $7900 left in this category, yet no overtime is allowed at Animal Control. If there is an emergency, tough luck; Animal Control staff is rarely allowed to respond. If they do have to work overtime, the Animal Control staff hesitates to put down the hours they actually worked so they won’t be harassed by the County Manager.

You will also see that “Communications” is over budget by $1200. This might be because three (3) cell phone bills are being charged to Animal Control when only two (2) employees have cell phones. The third phone is/has been used by Virginia Williams, the Code Enforcement officer Karen Degges hired that used to work in Baldwin, GA with her. Why has this phone been charged to Animal Control?

The BOC was told that “Utilities” were so far over budget because Animal Control utilities were costing $7,000 per month. This report shows that for the entire year to date the “electric” bills were $7900—over budget by $2000. BUT, the “natural gas” bills were $1400—underbudget by $1800. Utilities are only over budget by $200.

What is over budget? Vet supplies. Animals that come into the shelter have to be taken care of, and even though this figure is over by $4900, rescue groups do provide food, emergency vet care, and supplies to the shelter at no cost to Jasper County.

So what is the bottom line? The YTD report shows Animal Control still has $2,276.73 left in their budget as of 6/26/15 and the end of the budget year is 6/30/15. There may be end of the month expenses that change this figure, of course, but Animal Control was not over budget in April and they should have been allowed to buy supplies for the animals and work overtime if it was necessary to do their job properly.

The commissioners have allowed Karen Degges and Sherry Braley to give them false information about Animal Control; these two have led the BOC to believe that Animal Control has sky high utility bills and out of control personnel costs. Since the BOC always has plenty of money in “contingency” to dole out to every other department that goes over budget, why not Animal Control?

Commissioners, it is time that you started looking into the REAL finances of this county and what is being spent. It is also time you put a stop to the harassment of employees by your County Manager. Harassment is not leadership!

TWG

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Posted in Animal Control, Budgets, County, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

HOW MUCH MONEY WENT MISSING WHILE THE AUDIT WAS DELAYED?

June 26, 2015

What you allow

The warrant issued for Sherry Braley states that the offense of theft by taking occurred between March 1, 2013 and June 19, 2015 and was in excess of $15,000.

The Monticello News updated their story on the GBI arrest of Sherry Braley online this morning.

 The warrant was taken by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a spokesman said irregularities were found in the audit, and the sheriff’s office called in the GBI. Ms. Braley was booked into the Jasper County jail, and released on a $5,000 bond. 

Irregularities were found in the audit. That is the audit for the fiscal year 2014 that ended on 6/30/2014. That is the audit that was supposed to be complete by 12/31/14. That is the audit that was delayed by Karen Degges and her staff. That is the audit that covers the period when Karen Degges was Financial Director and was supervisor over Sherry Braley. That is the audit that still hasn’t been finalized and presented.

Commissioners, here are some questions that we the people want answered because it is our money that is missing and we have the right to know. We don’t want this information hidden behind closed doors in your back room.

  1. Approximately how much money over the $15,000 is in question?
  2. How much and from which department(s) was money taken?
  3. What methods were used to perpetrate this fraud?
  4. How much of this money was taken from 1/1/15 to present? This is the amount that could have been prevented from “theft by taking” if the audit had been prepared on time.
  5. Why was limited or no supervision of Sherry Braley allowed? Who oversees any county employee handling money?
  6. Why was Sherry Braley not required to be at work on time, turn in logs of what she did, or report paid time off? How much was she paid for time not worked—this is also theft. Why is this still allowed for a select few employees?
  7. Why was there never a requirement to keep a log of citations and/or permits issued?
  8. Why did Karen Degges allow Sherry Braley to resign after being interviewed by the GBI?
  9. Who knew about this theft, what did they know, and when did they know it?
  10. Who posted Sherry Braley’s bond? Why was it only $5,000?
  11. When will the audit be presented to the public?
  12. Why hasn’t Karen Degges been fired? She was the supervisor, the Financial Director part of this time, and has claimed to be a “forensic accountant” on at least 2 separate occasions.

Here are some of the comments posted to the blog about our original post GBI ISSUES WARRANT FOR COUNTY EMPLOYEE

Commissioners, we hope you read these and see what people are thinking/asking/wondering about this situation.

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for update. At least when she quit she can not get unemployment.  Karen Deggs might have finally done something right for once.
============================================

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 8:32 pm | In reply.

The problem with letting someone resign is, the felony/fraud is not on their record. Other unsuspecting cities, counties, private businesses hire them not knowing their background. Karen Degges has done everything possible to keep honest employees from getting unemployment, including falsely testifying to the Dep’t of Labor. And here we have an arrest by GBI and there’s a resignation allowed!
==============================================

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 8:19 pm

Zero Code enforcement cases in 2014? Why do we even need code enforcement at all if they don’t do their job?  Although I don’t know the specifics about the arrest, getting paid for a whole year and not one case brought before the court – I would call that theft by deception.
================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 8:44 pm

Where did the $15,000 come from and how did not one notice it missing?
===================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 9:01 pm | In reply .

Hoping answers are in the audit report we have been waiting on for a year.
==================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/23 at 10:03 pm

By allowing a resignation from an employee who has supposedly committed a crime against tax paying citizens, Degges is making a statement about herself. Such an action leads one to believe Degges may have been fully aware of and possibly involved in the alleged activity.
======================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 8:19 am

I know there were many citizens who complained to the BOC about checks written to P&Z never clearing their bank.You would think after sevaral complaints somebody would have looked into the problem. I guess it is easier to just raise our taxes every year,than to look for waste and stealing.
===================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 12:36 pm

No surprise here. The last Code Enforcement officer was fired for embezzlement as well.
This is indicative of the type of character attracted to this sort of loathsome job involving the near constant harassment of one attempting to exercise their property rights. .

Also, could it be that the main objective for exposing the corrupt side of the now former code enforcement officer was to make room to move a preferred employee up?

That said, and seeing how budgets cuts are extreme need of being made, now would be a fine opportunity to shut that P&Z office down for the “greater good” of all Jasper County citizens.
===================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 7:09 pm

So this is the same Sherry Braley that told the commissioners that animal control spent $7000 a month on utilities. It was obvious she had a problem with money then.
====================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 7:16 pm | In reply

That may be so, but the BOC is even more disfunctional when it comes to money. Supposedly the BOC reviews each and every check and invoice. If they actually did that, they would realize that the ENTIRE utility bill for ALL departments and county buildings for a month are not $7000. However both Comm. Salmon and Comm. Henry told Ms. Braley there should be an utility audit by CGEMC to see why the costs were so high. Scary to realize no one seems to know what is going on, but they sure know how to raise our taxes.
=======================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 8:23 pm

On May 22, 2014, Ms. Degges informed the BOC she had been a forensic auditor. If this is true, why did Ms. Degges allow this to happen. Ms. Degges repeatedly told the BOC and tax payers during financials, all departments were within budget and revenues were coming in as projected. This was either a lie or a cover up.
==================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/24 at 8:56 pm

This would explain why the audit is so late. Mr. Benton told the BOC and the public that the audit would be done in March or April at the latest. There is still not date set on when the public can see the audit.

The commissioners don’t seem to care about the audit. When someone brings something that seems fishy to their attention they seem oblivious to it and view it not being germane.

Indifference leads to corruption.
================================================

Submitted on 2015/06/26 at 9:46 am

I have learned from the Monticello News that Ms. Braley’s theft was discovered by the auditors.

A timely audit would have discovered this long before now. It is unconscionable for our commissioners to be so lackadaisical about audits and fiscal matters in general. Why did the BOC allow the audit to be delayed so long?

Commissioner Luke, how much gravel could the stolen monies have bought?

Ms. Degges makes us believe that she has a firm grip on finances, yet money gets stolen right from underneath her nose. So much for her forensic accounting experience.

I am disgusted that our commissioners let employees do as they please. There is no accountability. People show up late for work and nothing gets done. In private business, consistent tardiness is not tolerated and results in dismissal.

If our government was run like a private business, it would be bankrupt and shut down.
==================================================

 TWG appreciates everyone’s comments. We have also been hearing from members of the public who had to demand receipts for payments and were asked to pay in cash by Ms. Braley.

We hope everyone will be at the July 6th BOC meeting at 6:00PM and ask for answers to all these questions! Please make plans to be there!

 

TWG

If you like this newsletter, please forward to a friend and recommend they subscribe, too.

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

www.taxdogs.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/taxdogs

Posted in Code Enforcement, County, Open Government, Sheriff | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

HOW LONG DOES BOC THINK IT CAN KEEP FOOLING EPD AND THE CITIZENS ABOUT THE LANDFILL?

June 26, 2015

No regional dump**This blog has a lot of information.  If you are concerned about what our commissioners plan to do with the landfill, please take time to read it all.**

Since the Jasper County BOC tried to pull a fast one over on the citizens and form a Regional Solid Waste Authority behind closed doors, a lot has been learned. Some of this information has come to light during the SWC meetings; some of it has been obtained through open records or just plain research.

At the January 12, 2015 BOC meeting, Karen Degges told the BOC that she was sure we could turn waste into energy at the landfill and the EPD would extend the consent order (again) to let them try. She never mentioned the letter she wrote to EPD on September 23, 2014—click on letter to enlarge:

EPD.092314.WtoEThe BOC seemed wary of this proposal, but one commissioner said, “Whatever it takes to get EPD to extend the time.” Here is copy of the entire letter.

The BOC unanimously approved letting her put this Waste to Energy plan in motion. On the same day (1/12/15) Matthew Roper, former landfill “consultant” and certified operator, wrote a letter to the BOC about how he had found someone—Waste Eliminators of Norcross, GA—that would lease the landfill and take care of all the problems. Here is a copy of that letter.

Upon further investigation, we find that Steve Harbin/Harbin Engineering, who Karen Degges mentions in her letter to EPD, works for Lamar County’s solid waste landfill—which has received a $27.5 million GEFA loan to turn “waste to energy.”   The project will cost $44 million and Gene Trammell admitted to the SWC that the BOC had looked into partnering with Lamar County on this project. Following is a copy of the information in the 5/20/14 Lamar County BOC minutes.

LamarGEFALoan

 

We question if Steve Harbin or Harbin Engineering ever had anything to do with the Jasper County plan for waste to energy at the landfill. There are no checks written to Harbin Engineering at any time in 2014 or in 2015 and Ms. Degges responded to an open records request for a copy of Harbin’s report with the letter from Matthew Roper. It appears all the information sent to EPD was a smoke screen.

Shortly after the illegal executive session held by the county attorney, Karen Degges, and the BOC to set up a Solid Waste Authority, Mary Patrick filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office for the violations of open meetings. After an attempt by the county attorney to justify the BOC actions by saying that “if Mary Patrick doesn’t know everything in advance she thinks it is a violation,” a second response/complaint was filed with 32 additional letters signed by citizens that joined in the complaint. The Attorney General asked for more information and details from the county attorney. Here is a copy of his (the attorney’s) entire second response.

Notice in this response that Jim Alexander states that additional land acquisition was probable, even though he and all the commissioners were adamant that the landfill would not expand in public meetings. Also in his previous letter to the Attorney General he stated that they went into executive session to discuss land acquisition. Please read the letter; if you attended the meeting at the firehouse and/or the meeting in the courthouse you will see various discrepancies in what was actually said in public and what the excuses are to the Attorney General to defend the BOC against the complaint. (We are still waiting for the final determination from the Attorney General’s office.)

Public outrage along with the complaint to the Attorney General caused the BOC to overturn their Solid Waste Authority and set up a citizens committee. That committee met, worked to find solutions, and prepared a report before 6/30/15—the date set by both the BOC and the EPD when a report/plan had to be submitted to avoid $500 per day fines.   The SWC has tried in vain to submit that report in a timely manner, but the BOC and County Manager have rebuffed them. Instead that report will be submitted to the BOC on July 6, 2015 at 6:00PM.

In the meantime, Comm. Trammell has told a member of the SWC “that report y’all are doing has nothing to do with that consent order.”   He must have forgotten (remember, according to the County Manager he has memory problems) what he wrote in the SWC mission statement—Item #3 states: “This committee will meet as often as is required to complete the mission within the prescribed times as directed by Consent Order (EPD Consent Order EPD-SW-2648). Said plan stipulates that a formal plan be presented on or before June 30, 2015.”

We have learned that Comm. Trammell was going to write EPD a letter before 6/30/15. Now we have learned that Karen Degges is going to send them an email. An email is not a formal plan as required by the EPD consent order, but the BOC has gotten away with fooling them this long, maybe it will work one more time. If it doesn’t, the members of the BOC should have to pay the fines personally.

 Please pass this information on to others on your email list.

TWG

Be informed! Get involved! Plan to attend the July 6th meeting at 6:00PM. Don’t let the BOC fool us again!

Posted in County, Landfill, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CONVICTIONS MUST BE BASED ON TRUTH

June 25, 2015

Truth is the hardest language

During last week’s public hearing (June 18, 2015) on the FY16 budget, Comm. Pennamon stated that obviously no one in the county is concerned about the increased taxes, increased spending, and the direction the county is going because no one took the time (other than 2 citizens) to show up and voice opposition.

At the 9am meeting only two commissioners showed up. Where were the other three? Does this show their lack of concern for what the public thinks? Or did they know they weren’t going to make changes anyway? Or maybe they were at work, just like the majority of the citizens of this county were—working so they could pay their ever increasing taxes.

At the 6pm meeting all the commissioners attended and they were more concerned with defending the second big budget (and tax) increase in as many years rather than working to cut it. Some of their comments ring hollow.

Comm. Trammell said this group of commissioners “has the courage of its convictions” by increasing the budget and our taxes. The only problem with that statement is, convictions must be based on truth.

Comm. Trammell also stated that “this is the first budget that these commissioners have had a chance to make a difference.” How is that since these men have been in office 2 ½ years now? The first budget they set was for the FY14 year (7/1/13 to 6/30/14) and we are all still waiting on the audit to be completed (now a year late) to see how it turned out. In fact at a presentation a few months ago, Karen Degges told the BOC that the FY14 year should have over a $600,000 surplus. In addition we were taxed last year (FY15) for $350,000 to clean up the landfill and this money was not spent. Where is it? That’s almost $1,000,000 the county should have extra.

Every time the financials are presented to this BOC by either Karen Degges or Mike Benton, every department is under budget, everything is right on track, revenues are coming in over budget, and there should be a surplus. So why is there a need to increase the budget? Why isn’t this surplus available and why do the departments need more when they are under budget all the time?

Comm. Henry upon his vote of approving the budget for advertisement stated that “Hopefully, we will see that this money is well spent in the coming year.” There should be no “hopefully” about it! The commissioners are trustees of our money and have fiduciary responsibility to us to see that it IS spent wisely.

In looking at the 5 year tax history as posted in the paper, we haven’t seen anything to indicate the $823,000+ increase we were taxed for in FY15 was spent wisely, so why should we think the $396,000+ tax increase this year will be spent wisely? There is no accountability for the money we are forced to hand over to the BOC.

County Manager, Karen Degges, told everyone that this is “the year of the roads” and added that roads were the number one complaint the county receives. However, during the solid waste committee meeting when she was asked why $40,000 was being taken out of the curbside account for administration, she told the committee that “almost all the calls the county receives are about curbside.” So which is it? What is the truth?

Comm. Luke has sent out emails stating that Jasper County’s average per parcel tax is less than other counties. Seriously, sir, what does that have to do with anything? If my $100,000 house is on one 5 acre parcel and my neighbor’s $500,000 house is on his 5 acre parcel, how does an average per parcel tax comparison mean anything? What matters is how much I am being taxed. The tax on my $100,000 house in Jasper County –for county taxes only—would be $698. This same house valued at $100,000 in Putnam County would be $296; in Butts County would be $571. That, Comm. Luke, is what matters, along with the differences in services received for those tax dollars.

Citizens have learned over the years that it appears to make little difference if they show up and speak or not because the budget is already a “done deal.” Citizens should not have to organize a county wide meeting on every issue; instead the commissioners should be listening to the citizens and working for the citizens.

Comm. Trammell told one of his constituents that “the vast majority of citizens represent the silent majority,” thereby indicating that if you don’t speak up you must agree with him. He ended his comments with, I’ll continue to do what I think is the right thing to do for this county as I can best determine, and I’ll continue to sleep well.” And he underlined it to make sure she understood, it was about what he thought, not what she thought. This pretty much sums it up about what this BOC thinks about the citizens and their comments.

We must continue to stand together and speak up to have this county go in the direction the citizens want it to go. What affects one of us, indirectly affects all of us.

This was a letter to the editor submitted to The Monticello News by Mary Patrick.

TWG

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