May 9, 2018
According a recent letter to the editor, Mayor Pro Tem Stone Workman stated, “the City could completely do away with City taxes, slash utility rates or both.” There’s just one catch, the County taxpayers are supposed to pay for everything.
Below is Stone Workman’s letter followed by a response from Mary Patrick in this week’s paper.
Let us know what you think.
CITY WOULD SLASH UTILITY RATES/TAXES WITH FAIR SDS AGREEMENT
The Service Delivery Strategy is of utmost importance to the citizens of Monticello because a fair agreement would bring the unfair, immoral, and illegal use of double taxation of the residents in the incorporated areas being used to subsidize services only being provided to the unincorporated areas of Jasper County. Without this transfer of wealth from the Citizens of Monticello to the residents in unincorporated Jasper County, the City of Monticello could slash utility (electric, gas, water, sewer) rates, do away with City taxes, or both.
Two prime examples of this double taxation is Public Works and Planning/Zoning/Code Enforcement. The Jasper County budget for Public Works is $1,738,247 per year and Code Planning/Zoning/Code enforcement is budgeted for $171,385. All of this money is spent in the unincorporated areas, that is, zero dollars are spent in the City of Monticello but 20-35% of these taxes are collected from the City’s residents. Then the City has to tax the residents again to pay for these services in the City. That is pure and ugly double taxation.
There are two ways for the Board of Commissioners to do the right thing and mitigate this unbalance. One would be to form an incorporated tax district and an unincorporated tax district. Districts would be taxed on services provided and all Jasper County residents would still pay for county-wide and constitutional services. County taxes in the City of Monticello would fall. The second way is for the Board of Commissioners to return the money collected in the incorporated areas for the City to provide the services, such as Public Works and Code Enforcement, etc. If this were done, the City could completely do away with City taxes, slash utility rates or both.
This SDS agreement will cover the next ten years and millions of dollars are at stake. If the citizens of Monticello want lower taxes and utility rates, I urge them to contact their County Commissioner, especially the three who represent (in theory) the people in the City of Monticello. Also, let your Mayor and City Councilmember know you expect them to stand firm on returning this money to their hard working constituents.
City would slash utility rates and do away with property taxes?
Do away with City property taxes? Slash utility rates? Wow! It all sounds so wonderful! All that has to be done is let the county taxpayers pick up all the bills and voila, everything becomes utopia in the City of Monticello—at least according to Stone Workman’s letter to the editor.
Did City taxes go down or utility rates decrease when the City got rid of its police department and pushed that service onto the Sheriff? Uh, believe that answer is NO! What did happen was the County raised their millage rate TWO MILLS to compensate, which resulted in a $76,619 increase in taxes to the City residents and a $698,355 increase to the County residents who got no additional benefit. (See 5 year history for 2013 and 2014). I think that increase to the County taxpayers was unfair, immoral, and illegal. A special tax district should have been set up since City residents are getting a higher level of service than the County residents, and they are not compensating the County for it.
Recently the City Council voted to buy a “Megasite” down Hwy 11 S. They obtained a $3M GEFA loan to purchase the property. They also tried to obtain a USDA loan of $5M with an additional $4M grant. The City pledged all of their utility revenues to pay the loan and assured the city residents that this would not make their utility rates go up. USDA rejected the loan application saying that the City could not pledge all their utility revenues for the loan collateral. According to people I know in the City, utility rates are higher than ever.
Mr. Workman states in his letter that 20-30% of taxes spent on Planning and Zoning/Code Enforcement are collected from City residents. Based on the 2017 tax levy printed in the Monticello News, $739,994 of property tax was levied on City (incorporated) property and $6,112,564 was levied on County (unincorporated) property. That happens to be 10.8% of the taxes levied, not 20-35%.
What Mr. Workman wants to ignore is the fact that the County pays for all of animal control, all 911, and all of Recreation, just to name a few of the things that the City residents get the benefit of at County expense. The Jasper County population is approximately 13,800 people. The City population is approximately 2,500 or 18% of the population. Why isn’t the City reimbursing the County for the additional 7% of the cost for these and other services paid for solely by the County?
According to the Georgia Municipal Association, some benefits of becoming a city include:
- ability to elect city representatives (mayor and council);
- ability to establish local ordinances and regulations, e.g., planning and zoning;
- ability to provide a higher level of services to your residents, e.g., recreation, water and sewer;
- ability to receive state and federal grants, loans, and permits;
If the citizens of the City want lower property taxes and utility rates, they need their elected officials to be honest with them, quit going into debt, and to quit using unsubstantiated figures and emotional hype to push a false narrative– i.e., the promise of lower utility bills and no city property taxes.
There are some folks that are pushing City-County Consolidation. Maybe all this is a ploy so it can be said the only way to agree is to consolidate. Do the county taxpayers want to take on the City’s entire debt, along with the ever increasing county debt? As you can see with the Sheriff taking over the City Police—it is not cheaper to consolidate and studies prove it.
The citizens living in the unincorporated areas of the county need to contact each and every one of the Commissioners and tell them we are getting cheated, and we do not want to pay higher property taxes or take over city services.
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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.