Lee Budget precludes tax hike - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee Budget precludes tax hike

 By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Most south Georgia cities and counties are struggling with budget problems right now. They're trying to avoid layoffs and cuts to essential services without raising taxes.

Lee County Commissioners figured out how to do that. They say they'll hire more deputies and firefighters and give employees a raise, all without a tax increase, and an accountant who exposed Lee County's embarrassing budget mistakes in 2006 is getting credit for this year's balanced proposal.  

The Lee County Commission Budget committee had one priority when they started work on the 2010 budget. "With the economy being as weak as it is, we would not condone or even consider a tax increase this year," said Commission Chairman Ed Duffy.

Department heads' first requests would have broken the bank.  Redbone Commissioner Bill Williams said "We were $3.8 million out of balance. And that would have necessitated a 4.5 mill tax increase."

Duffy and Williams said they started making cuts, except for public safety. The Fire Department got a $107,000 budget increase, so they can hire an Assistant Chief and another firefighter, and promote another firefighter.

The Sheriff got a $304,000 increase to hire three more Deputies. Public Works also got a $95,000 increase. Most other departments made cuts, the biggest by commissioners and administrators. In the end, no employee layoffs, instead a three percent pay raise.

Before becoming a Commissioner, Bill Williams in 2005 caught a one and a half million dollar mistake in the Lee County budget, and exposed the problem. This year Duffy says Williams' expertise in government budgets helped prevent a tax increase.

But both agree that Lee County needs more business and commercial income to avoid tax increases in the future.  "Without commercial development, we're gonna have a serious problem. Because if we don't get commercial development, we're gonna have to resort to raising the millage rate," Duffy said.

The controversial Grand Island Golf Course will receive $40,000 in the 2010 proposed budget, and must cover the rest of their budget with user fees.

A public hearing on the Lee County proposed budget will be held June 15th, and then Commissioners will vote on it June 23rd.  

  • Click HERE to see the Lee County Budget in a PDF file.


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