Lee County's money problems continue - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee County's money problems continue

May 9, 2007

Lee County --   Homeowners may be in store for either a whopping property tax increase, or a cut in services.  The tax rate may rise by as much as three mils, which would mean an extra $20 a month, $250 a year, on a $200,000 home.

The only other option in balancing the budget would be cutting things like mosquito spraying and part-time firefighters. So what to do?

For years Lee County has balanced its budget by going to their reserves, but now that safety net is gone.

"Since 1999 we've taken 10 million dollars out, they have been taking $10 million out of reserves to balance the budget with, which it shouldn't be that way," said Morris Leverett, Lee County Commission Chairman.

It's left commissioners with a decision that's divided the board and taxpayers-- either a three mill tax increase or cut $1.7 million in county services.

Lavon1 "Leave the taxes like they are, cut the services," was the suggestion of Lee Countian Lavon Kennedy.

"I wouldn't mind paying a little more if it's going to save a father his job or this mother her job," said citizen Angie Fowler. 

The county is in this situation because last year's budget was overstated by $1.2 million.  Alan Ours says items like Grand Island, garbage services, and probate court were simply not budgeted.  The three mill increase would cost a property owner with a $200,000 home, $240 dollars a year or $20 dollars a month.  Service cuts would also be drastic and could include eliminating any new county positions or cutting development authority support. 

"You'll take one fire station and close it, Redbone Library is going to be closed.  It's easy to do, water bills, you take the money out of the utility authority, that means your water bill is going to shoot up," said Leverett.

It's got taxpayers questioning why the county can't set a budget and stay within the confines.

"I don't think they do the best they can," said Fowler. 

"The more you give them the more they spend," said Kennedy.

So next year Lee Countians might not be faced with another tax increase or a cut in services.

As a result of last year's budget, the County Finance Director was fired.  To balance the upcoming budget, the county is expected to raise many of its service fees for alcohol licenses, recreation,  and zoning. 

Commissioner will meet next Tuesday at 10:00 to make a final budget decision.

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