BOC votes 4-1 to set millage rate at 16.5
Spraggins casts ‘No’ vote, but sayshe supports 1 mill tax for TUIDA
by Ashley Biles Associate Editor
The Upson County Board of Commissioners set the 2013 millage rate at 16.5 mills in a special meeting held Wednesday evening. Prior to the vote being called, Commissioner Steve Hudson asked if there was any way the county could get by with setting a lower rate. However, County Manager Jim Wheeless stated that he had searched for a way, but came up dry; noting that without raising the rate to 16.5 mills, the county would not have enough funds to pay their bills. The board voted 4-1 to approve the rate with Commissioner Frank Spraggins casting the only no vote, but he stated he wanted to say for the record he did support the funding dedicated to the Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority. Chairman Rusty Blackston stated that as much as he hated to say it, the motion passed.
The county held a total of three public hearings for the citizens to voice their opinions and concerns about this year’s property tax rate, with the final one being held before the seven o’clock meeting Wednesday. During the final hearing, Laurie Mameli shared her concerns with the board about an increase in the millage rate.
“I love Upson County, I really do,” said Mameli. “We have lived here since 1988 and we’ve had tax increases before which is to be expected. But, I’m very concerned about this one. Everything is going up and we have people on fixed incomes here. Food is up 20-50 percent, fuel is up; I understand that budgets have to come up because of that. This year is going to be rough, but next year is going to be rougher. What are we going to do next year with the health insurance?”
Blackston stated that the county is looking into ways that the cost of insurance can be cut, perhaps with more of the expense being put on the employees. However, he noted that is a fine line to walk because employees may begin to look for employment elsewhere if there is too much of a burden put on them.
He continued saying the county is trying to keep costs down by using the operating budget for basically repairs and maintenance and they are not taking on any major projects. The projects that are seen going on around town, such as the new flag football fields behind the Government Complex, are all being done with SPLOST funding.
County Attorney Ed Trice stated that he normally doesn’t say much at these meetings, but he felt this time it would be appropriate. Trice noted for the last 10-15 years the state of Georgia has constantly shifted the burden of services from the state to the local governments, who have had to absorb the shift by either raising taxes or cutting their own budgets to cover the expenses. One example he gave was the Gilmore Center, which used to be almost completely funded by the state until about 10 years ago when the funding was cut substantially. The county stepped up to support the center, which at the time was about $35,000, but due to continued cuts is now near $100,000.
“I think the state has figured out the way they can balance the budget is on the backs of the local governments,” said Trice. “I’m not saying it is sour grapes, I’m just saying it is a reality.”
Chairman Blackston noted the board is trying to cut back as much as they can in all areas of county government and will be taking a hard look and making cuts for the 2014 budget.
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