Dougherty County - Property taxes in Dougherty County may go up even more than expected. "We have services that are mandated, the economy is growing, and therefore taxes will have to increase," said County Commissioner Brenda Robinson-Cutler. County commissioners are trying to give county employees are pay raise, which they say would force them to raise property taxes even more than they first thought.
Just more than a week ago, Commissioners said property taxes would likely go up 2-mils. Monday, they upped it to 2.5-mils which would bring in an additional $4,600,000 in tax revenue.
Debbie Barnhart and her dog, Buddy, check the mail at her Malborough Street home. She's one taxpayer who expected Dougherty County to deliver a higher property tax bill this year. "You expect tax hikes with everything that's going on in the world and with elections. Tax hikes come when you're in a growing county," said Barnhart.
Homeowner Ben Johnson isn't so understanding of balancing the budget at the expense of taxpayers. "What's the matter with cutting? You have to do it to stay competitive. You're asking every household to do it, so what's different with the county," said Johnson.
However, the County is cutting. County commissioners are talking about eliminating 11 jobs from departments from solid waste to administration to save money. Now, the budget debate is centering on the remaining employees. Some commissioners are supporting raising taxes by 2.5-mils to make sure employees get a modest raise.
"I would rather see taxes increase, than not see the staff get a merit or cost of living increase, or insurance rate goes up, and the whole works," said Commissioner Cutler. County commissioners agreed to raise the insurance premiums by 5% for county employees. So if those employees don't get a raise, some will take home less money this year.
Johnson says it's time for the County to dip into its $8,000,000 reserve fun to lessen the load on employees and taxpayers. "To say I'm going to put my hands on that $8,000,000 and do nothing with it, when your asking everybody else to make changes, is like taking your ball home and saying I'm not going to play," said Johnson.
The County has until June 30, 2004 to pass the budget which gives commissioners a few more weeks to decide on pay raises and tax hikes. A 2.5 mil tax hike would mean an additional $100 dollars a year in property taxes on a $100,000 home.
Also Monday, County commissioners agreed to increase some Environment Health fees. You'll be paying anywhere from $10 to $25 more permits ranging from septic tanks and swimming pool , as well as land site evaluations.