Lee property taxes on the rise - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lee property taxes on the rise

October 13, 2005

Lee County- Despite protests, property taxes will take a big jump in south Georgia's fastest growing county. Wednesday Lee County Commissioners voted for a 14 percent increase to the county's millage rate.

Children dressed as pilgrims and Indians claiming Thursday's vote for a tax increase in Lee County was as going to be "their future debt" and "our forefather's nightmare."

"I know there's a lot they could cut in the budget that's not necessary, like $220,000 a year in cell phone and phone bills, traveling $100,000, and there were bonuses given," said Leigh Anne Bjerregaard who was against the tax increase.

Commissioners approved the two mill increase declaring the additional 1.5 million will pay for necessary county services.

"We've been striving to get fire and EMS protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week in all district and we're close, but you know it cost to do it and that's our goal and most of this money is for public safety officials," said Jackie Sizemore, Lee County Commission Chairman.

The tax will pay for two more Sheriff deputies and two more public works employees in addition to more public works equipment to keep up with the growing community. Some residents, who say they know the cost of doing business, support the decision.

"I want to have the sheriff department available when I need them available, I like public works to be out there when I need them, the library system, keep it going. The employees, we haven't given them enough raises to start with, but they do their job they go beyond the call a lot and I have no problem paying for those services," said George Johnson who was for the tax increase.

Commissioner Billy Mathis didn't agree, and cast the only no vote.

"I just think we have enough revenue in Lee County we don't need to raise taxes because we have growing revenues, we're very fortunate to have growing revenues we ought to live within our means," said Billy Mathis, Lee County Commission.

Commissioners say it's not something they wanted to do, but can't keep going to their reserves to pay the bills.

"I don't either, I'm one of these people, I'm paying too, I'm raising my own taxes and I don't like taxes," said Sizemore.

Commissioners originally proposed a three mill increase to raise enough revenue to hire 28 new employees. After protests, the plan was scaled back to the two mill increase and seven new employees.

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