Business owners and developers oppose proposed tax hike - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Business owners and developers oppose proposed tax hike

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May 23, 2006 

Albany-- Albany city leaders may raise your taxes this year but some business owners and developers say a hike isn't necessary. They formed a watchdog group called Concerned Taxpayers of Dougherty and Lee Counties.  

Linda Thomas has been in her Albany home for more than a decade, 12 years to be exact.  She loves it more each day.

"Real nice, real quiet," says Thomas. It's her quiet piece of heaven right on the corner of the block, just the way she likes it. "Being on the corner is really good," says Thomas. But like many homeowners, there's something that comes along with the territory that she doesn't like, bills, and for Thomas that definitely includes that property tax bill that comes once a year.

"It's not something we like. Anything that goes up we don't like. I mean, it's not a good thing," says Thomas.

And it's especially not good for those who own multiple properties.  A group of concerned developers and businesses paid former assistant city manager Kevin Hogencamp to review the city's budget to make sure a proposed 1.2 mil increase is the right choice.

"We have reviewed the city's budget and and fiscal condition and concluded that the city thus far has not justified that a property tax increase is warranted," says Hogencamp. They also posed 7 questions to city leaders.  One question addresses what the group considers a healthy reserve fund balance of $16.3 million dollars.

"How does the city justify seeking a property tax increase when it is imposing and collecting taxes to increase the fund balance annually," asked Hogencamp.

"The facts that they listed, I could tell that there were some inaccuracies. For example, with the reserves, the amount of money there," says Alfred Lott.

City manager Alfred Lott says the balance is actually about 9 million dollars and sustaining that revenue would be one reason for an increase but he says the main reason would be a public safety issue.

"It should be noted that we delivered a balanced budget and what we're considering with the millage rate would be something above and beyond that which would incorporate public safety increases," says Lott.

"Other people have to live. It's just, you have to think about the people and I know they have to do what they have to do," says Thomas.

As Thomas strolls through her yard, she hopes her tax bill stays just as pretty.

"I love a beautiful yard.  I hope it stays like it is," says Thomas.

Alfred Lott says an increase would be a last resort and he welcomes the group's questions and concerns. Right now, the city is working on the budget.  He says he'll have his budget people look at those questions and incorporate them into that preparation then present the group with answers.

Group leaders say they want to serve as a voice for the community to ensure taxes are imposed efficiently and at an affordable level.

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