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Commission chairman supports tax increase | Politics

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Commission chairman supports tax increase
Politics

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver announced Thursday that he supports a property tax increase to balance the 2012 budget, in lieu of massive cuts for employees and service reductions for citizens.

“As a resident of Hall County, I cannot ask county employees, firefighters, EMTs and deputies to protect my family, if I am not willing to protect their families,” Chairman Oliver said. “This tax increase is essential if we are to retain our experienced staff and keep this county running quality, efficient services.”

Chairman Oliver said his tax bill on a home valued at $180,000 would increase by $101.50/year, or 28 cents a day, if the Commission approves the increase.

Since the recession began in 2008, sales taxes, property taxes and other county income have dropped dramatically. As a result, the tentative fiscal year 2012 budget has an $11.5-million shortfall. Without a tax increase, employees face continued furloughs and unpaid holidays that constitute an 8% salary decrease, lost retirement contributions by the county, as well as substantial layoffs. Residents face a moth-balled park system, four out of six libraries closed, the loss of two out of 22 ambulances, a longer response time to road maintenance requests, and reduced services overall.

Chairman Oliver proposes a total 1.41-mill increase in the property tax rate. According to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the Commission may increase or “roll up” the property tax rate to make up for lost property values, which have declined 21% in Hall County since 2008. A roll-up is not considered a tax increase, because the government will still collect the same amount of total revenue. The roll-up would constitute 0.60 mills, and the Chairman’s proposed tax increase is 0.81 mills. The total is $8 million, which means $3.5 million in spending cuts would need to be made.

A presentation explaining the proposed budget and a public hearing will take place during the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 9 at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville. The budget and millage rate must be approved before the fiscal year begins July 1. Three public hearings will be scheduled if a tax increase is proposed.

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