October 6, 2014
These are additional items discussed at the 10/2/14 Town Hall meeting.
There was lively discussion about JCWSA. Comm. Luke asked Mary Patrick, “Do you think any of the current commissioners got elected to screw the county over?” The answer was, “Yes! Two commissioners ran so they could help JCWSA, and they did so.”
Comm. Luke defended spending the $50,000 for JCWSA and mostly repeated what he had been told about JCWSA by Comm. Salmon and Comm. Trammell. He also said only people on the water line pay; however, that is not true. It was discussed how $50,000 that he and the rest of the BOC voted to approve came from the General Fund paid for by all taxpayers, as was $20,000+ in 2009 and more than $30,000 in years before that. Someone finally said, “We voted this [JCWSA] down to start with and it should have never been brought up again.” This was the feeling of the majority of those in attendance.
Someone asked why in the world Jasper County ever got involved in Stanton Springs. Again, Comm. Luke said this was commercial property and commercial property meant tax money. He said Jasper County would start getting money from Stanton Springs in 2018. This statement isn’t exactly true because Baxter gets a 10 year reprieve from paying property taxes and that starts in 2018. (As a note, Jasper County continues to make quarterly payments for bonds and other expenses to Stanton Springs/Four County Development Authority.)
It was also brought up that the economic development director says there will 10,000 more people settle in the north part of Jasper County within the next 5-10 years because of Baxter. It has also been rumored that Comm. Trammell wants to run water lines down Hwy 142 to serve new development in this area because of this expected growth (10,000 people). The question was asked, “If the four counties were promised all these jobs, why would we have 10,000 more people come to Jasper County and need subdivisions and developments? Why aren’t the people that already live here getting those jobs?”
Taxes and the Millage Rate
Someone had written a letter that said Jasper County has the lowest taxes of any of the surrounding counties, and we should raise taxes! No one agreed with that statement.
Comm. Trammell tried to convince those attending that the millage rate didn’t matter. Folks, it does matter. It is what determines your tax levy along with the value of your house. Jasper County has the highest millage rate of any of the surrounding counties. See the comparison here. If you have a house valued at $100,000 in any county, you will pay taxes at the set millage rate, and you will pay more in Jasper County than in any other surrounding county.
Comm. Luke said that the cost of running the county has not gone down. People told him we were already taxed to death and the county needed to cut the budget, cut out waste, watch how the money was actually spent, and reminded him that the economy had not come back since 2009 even though the county wanted to spend like the 2008 boom time. A citizen commented that the value on their house had gone down $10,000 this year and their taxes went up $112.
Remember, the county didn’t cut the budget, they added $1,000,000 to the budget for the year 7/1/14-6/30/15. The taxes you are paying now are paying for that big increase.
After comments were made about having to go through harassment and hassle just to get open records (copies of checks and documents), Karen Degges made the comment that she had never heard from the Attorney General (Note: The Attorney General had written the county on at least 4 occasions after various complaints) and no one had ever made her give records. (There will be a separate blog on this with copies of the Attorney General letters, Karen Degges’ past history with hiding open records from the public, etc.)
Other Miscellaneous Discussions
There was discussion about Sharon Robinson receiving an extra $800 check for “saving the county $8000” by doing away with Public Works uniforms. Comm. Trammell had no clue about this. County policy says any department head or elected official cannot receive money for cost cutting because that is their job. See check and invoice here.
There were no bids for the new server and two computers—which cost the county almost $2000 more than any citizen could buy the same thing for from TigerDirect. A gentlemen in the audience told Comm. Trammell and Karen Degges they were getting into serious problems by not following the procurement policies. (These computers were bought from Selective Solutions—the same company Ms. Degges wants to provide telephone and internet services through Comcast.)
Why does everyone need a county provided cell phone? The county manager has always had a cell phone, but now the BOC each has one (Comm. Trammell has turned his back in), the HR director has one, and now the new finance director has one. Why?
Solutions and/or Suggestions from the Citizens
At the end of the meeting a man commented he didn’t think the meeting was productive because there were no solutions. That is not correct– there were solutions and/or suggestions from the public to save money and build trust. They were:
1. Quit wasting money and get bids on items to get the best deal.
2. Don’t raise taxes, cut the budget instead—see item #1.
3. Communicate with the citizens and tell us the truth!
4. Do the county business in the open and not over the telephone or behind closed doors.
5. Commissioners need to know what is going on and be more aware rather than let the County Manager control everything.
6. Listen to the citizens and take them seriously.
7. The elected officials of this county—both city council and county commissioners must remember:
All government, of right, originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole. Public officers are the trustees and servants of the people and are at all times amenable to them. –Georgia Constitution
We are hoping to have another Town Hall meeting in the near future.
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