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Speak up about proposed county tax hike

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POSTED: June 20, 2013 7:30 a.m.

Editor, In response to the June 15 article on the millage rate increase need for 2014, the 2014 budget has a shortfall because the county has $1.6 million more in wants/needs than they anticipate collecting. This is a self-decided shortfall by the county administrator with the help of the county commissioners. They want/need more done than they have the money for under the current millage rate.
Every citizen in Bryan County understands from their own household budgeting that at times, wants have to be separated from needs. Needs also have to be planned for. I “want” to go to Hawaii in 2014. However, I have not saved for it, so it cannot be part of my 2014 budget. I “need” to replace my vehicle in 2014. Fortunately, I anticipated that need coming up more than two years ago. I saved for this need. Thus, it will be part of my 2014 budget. I would love to tell my employer that he should give me a raise so I could also go to Hawaii, but I don’t think it would turn out favorably!
“We the people” employ the county administrator and commissioners. I understand that as property values have dropped so too has tax revenue. My revenue stream, like the majority of most citizens, has dropped also. I made adjustments. It is the job of government to adjust to revenue streams. That is why we employ them.
Amongst the increased wants/needs of the commissioners are the following: $200,000 for Belfast Siding interchange (last I heard, Atlanta had NO money for this project at this time); $250,000 for the reserve (no comment); $150,000 for new sheriff cars (is this a surprise that just sprung out of nowhere?); and finally $500,000 for 911 (another surprise I can only assume). Why were these not planned for in advance and budgeted for in advance? Items like the above are no different than household budgets. We save for new cars. We anticipate cable, electric, water increases. Why doesn’t the county? Lastly, which of the above can be delayed?
It was additionally noted that the county spends $1.3 million to provide fire services but only collects $945,000 in fees. How did this get so out of whack? Did no one notice this was happening or did costs increase 33 percent in one year? I suspect most of us would have appreciated a more gradual increase to our yearly fire protection bill to keep up with raising costs than to be told we will have to see an increase from the current $120 yearly fee to $165.
The commissioners have agreed to let the administrator “advertise the millage increase from 7.9 to 9.4,” an almost 15 percent increase. If no one shows up to planned meetings to express their discomfort with the county’s past planning and future spending, then it will automatically be a done deal. Please plan on attending any meeting so as to ask questions of your commissioner.

— Heather Brockhoff, Richmond Hill

 

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