Taxpayers aren't happy - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Taxpayers aren't happy

October 1, 2007

Albany --  Nearly 100 people turn out to protest what may amount to a big property tax increase by the Dougherty County School board.

The school system says it needs $8 million more next year, while taxpayers criticized the board for misuse of funds they have already collected, and questioned why such a large increase is necessary in just a year's time.  

A room of disgruntled taxpayers protest a more than 17% property tax increase proposed by the Dougherty County school board.  "What they're doing with their money, we don't know, but we're going to find out. We're not going to accept this tax increase," said Richard R. Thomas of the Taxpayers Association.

A room filled mostly with senior citizens, who no longer have children in school, but are still footing the cost to send kids to school.  

"It's too much for us to bear," says Donnie Smith, who says she's worried about how the school board has budgeted tax dollars in the past, and says she doesn't want them to increase the budget without justifying the expense. "The children are not getting educated, they can't read, they can't write, they can't do math."  

"Please do not insult the school system because we work very hard," School Board Chairman Michael Windom.

"Sir, listen to me. If you had a track record that was worth talking about, we wouldn't be here today," said Smith.

But a graduation rate near 60% isn't much to brag about. That's one of the main concerns of many of the people who gathered here. If nearly 40% of the kids in Dougherty County Public Schools aren't graduating, is the money being wasted?

"We continue to try many different issues to address the graduation rate. It continues to be problematic, but it is our top priority," said Windom.  

But the top priority of the taxpayers is making sure their money is spent responsibly. State Representative Ed Rynders said 96% of the people he represents are highly concerned with property taxes, especially since they are pulling the weight of others who don't contribute.  

"There's a lot of people receiving your services that aren't paying their fair share," said Rynders.

Board Chairman Michael Windom says the board will take all comments into consideration and determine if any changes can be made.

Two more public hearings are scheduled to discuss the property tax rate. One is at 6:00 tonight at the School administration building.

Another is scheduled for next Monday night, when the board will set the millage rate.

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