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Lee commissioners say no to tax increase

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June 10, 2008

Lee County--  Three weeks ago there was no alternative. Lee County commissioners said they had no choice but to raise property taxes. Now, things have changed. "I think we can balance the budget without a millage increase," said Commissioner Ed Duffy.

Led by Commissioner Ed Duffy Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously to do away with talks of a millage increase. "With gas over $4.00 a gallon and the economy as weak as it is, I don't think it's in the interest of the Lee County citizens to have a millage increase this year," said Duffy.

After some study, Duffy says they found some light at the end of the tunnel with some extra money. With the tax digest finally in, an additional $270,000 over last year is now in the books plus more.

"Our local option sales tax has given us an additional $300,000 more than what was budgeted in the 2008 budget," said Duffy. But surprisingly, not everyone welcomes the news of no tax increase.

"Taxes should have been raised three years ago," said Lee County citizen Nancy Harper to commissioners during a public hearing Tuesday night. Harper worries about Lee County's future with low reserve funds and still no safety services in parts of the county.

"We can not afford to not have essential services," said Harper. And county employees like Magistrate Court Judge Jim Thurman want the budget to compensate employees better, even if that means going up on the millage rate.

"We ask that several of our employees be raised to comparable salaries," said Thurman to commissioners.

Commissioners will continue to work over the next couple of weeks to balance the budget without the increase. "Balancing the budget is wonderful but it's not enough," said Harper.

It will take time to know if it's enough.  Duffy is depending on commercial growth to really get the county on solid financial ground. "I think the county is in pretty doggone good shape right now. Yes we need to build the reserves but you can't build them overnight," said Duffy.

So for now, taxpayers are free from helping with that process.

Lee County Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a final budget on June 24th.

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