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October 18, 2006

PROPERTY TAX BILLS EXPECTED SOON

With a call to the Tax Commissioners office we have found that property owners should soon be receiving their property tax bill(s)—maybe as early as the end of this week. This year taxpayers should ask themselves one big question—What are our taxes paying for?

The Board of Commissioners has not set a budget for the County. Just when do they plan to review the department budgets, hold public hearings, and set the budget for 2007? Taxpayers will be paying their money to the County without a budget to show what they are paying for. Citizens are supposed to be able to review the budget before the public hearings are held so citizens can ask questions and find out about budgeted items.

TWG knows that the State Legislature has raised the Constitutional Officers salaries; this will increase the budgets of each Constitutional office without any input by the Commissioners. For example, the Magistrate’s salary will go from $59,810 in 2006 to $72,525 in 2007-- an increase of $12,715 or 21%! Local taxpayers pick up all kinds of expenses the State mandates. Did the Commissioners take all this into account when they set the millage without a budget (or any other figures to go by)?

Property taxes will be due before 12/31/06.

TAX LEVY SIGNATURES QUESTIONED

On August 25, 2006 the Commissioners by a vote of 3-0-1 passed the millage rate and a “Tax Levy Resolution.” Comm. Pennamon abstained stating he felt a budget should first be put in place. Comm. Hill did not attend the meeting. The law requires that ALL Commissioners sign the Tax Levy.

Several citizens sent a letter to the Attorney General questioning the validity of the Tax Levy. The levy states, “There being ALL members Present..” All members weren’t present, yet Comm. Hill and all the other Commissioners signed the resolution stating they were all present. County Manager, Greg Williams, in an affidavit to the County Attorney (which was sent to the Attorney General) stated that “Comm. Hill was not present at the levy meeting, although he was present, by the showing of his signature, for the execution of the tax levy resolution.” This is a very interesting statement. When was the tax levy signed if not after the tax levy meeting? Comm. Hill was in Macon at a meeting on August 25, 2006 (the citizens paid for him to attend the Georgia Assoc. of Black Elected Officials). Did all the Commissioners come back at a later time to sign (execute) the tax levy, or did Comm. Hill come in a day or two later and sign it after the other Commissioners already had signed the levy? The County Attorney was not present that day for the meeting or to see who signed and when. The tax levy was not posted on the Courthouse door for at least 3 days and possibly longer after the August 25th meeting.

There were questions about the meeting being legal due to the failure to post the meeting agenda as required. However, the County Manager and County Attorney assured the Attorney General that it was definitely a “special circumstance” and that the meeting was “legal.”

“If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.” --Albert Einstein

TWG
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Mission Statement:
** To keep the taxpayers of Jasper County, Georgia informed as to where and how their tax dollars are being spent.
** To keep the taxpayers abreast of local policies and laws being discussed and enacted.
** We advocate more open government, less government spending, and lower property taxes.

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