Joanne Reynolds protests her 158 percent tax increase to the commission.
The burning subject at Thursday’s June meeting of the Dade County Commission was, if it can be imagined, property taxes.
The Dade Tax Assessor’s Office had completed a major reevaluation and mailed out notices to homeowners a few days earlier. A number of citizens had stormed into the Commission office waving the notices, and County Executive Ted Rumley was plainly expecting more to arrive daily.
“There’s been some drastic increases,” said Rumley.
In one case, he said, a property had been revalued from $115,000 to $290,000, which would spur a commensurate spike in ad valorem taxes. “Hopefully there’s something wrong,” he concluded.
Something wrong? Homeowner Joanne Reynolds certainly thought so. During the citizens’ participation part of the meeting, she took the podium to tell the commission all about it.
“The state has caused our taxes to increase 158 percent over last year,” she said. “It’s just not right.”
Ms. Reynolds was inclined to blame the skyrocketing revals on Georgia— How fortunate, she said, that Dade has Sen. Jeff Mullis to represent its interests at the statehouse—and so was the county boss. He had sat in on a meeting between Chief Appraiser Paula Duvall and angry homeowners, said Rumley, and learned that the higher values resulted from a new way Georgia required appraisers to appraise.
The Boss said his own property was among those whose values had soared. But he said one man had come in to complain in the other direction—his values had taken a nosedive just when he needed his place to appraise high because he was trying to sell.
Rumley stressed that the tax notices are not bills though they give an estimate of what taxes will be, and he reminded taxpayers they have 45 days to appeal the appraisals. Remember that deadline, urged the Boss; day 46 is no good. Chief Appraiser Duvall can explain the appeals process, he said. “Come by the office,” said Rumley. “Feel free to call.”
The phone number at the Dade Tax Assessor’s office is (706) 657-6341. The Dade County Commission’s number is (706) 657-4625.
If Georgia was blamed for the property tax issue, the Feds got some heat, too. County Clerk Don Townsend said an unfunded mandate was forcing the county government to switch some employees from salaried to hourly or face giving them whopping raises Dade simply can’t afford, in some cases double their present pay. But the switch to hourly pay could have dire consequences in overtime, he warned.
For his part, Rumley said the county had dodged a bullet when it was narrowly allowed, after a $3200 process of tests and argumentation, not to replace stormwater culverts countywide to comply with new environmental regulations. “It’s really an answer to prayer,” he said. He also hoped that a $2800 process of petitioning the Georgia Environmental Protection Division would result in the county finally getting out from under its expensive obligation for groundwater contamination from Dade’s long-closed landfill. “That’s about a $30,000 hit every year,” he said.
Clerk Townsend said that sales tax collections are at historic lows. The proposed county budget for Fiscal Year 2017 is completed, he said, but still short $130,000. “Good luck,” he said.
“We’ll find $130,000,” said Rumley. “We’ve done this before.”
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16. The next Thursday, June 23, also at 5 p.m., the budget will be finalized at a special called meeting.
And speaking of meetings, a second public hearing on the Dade/Trenton 10-year plan will be held at 10 a.m. on June 14 in the Dade Public Library.
On a more cheerful note, the Dade County Commission issued a proclamation honoring the Rev. D.D. Bain, the Dade Church of God minister who was knighted this week in Atlanta by the French for his role in liberating their country during World War II. Bain was among the American soldiers who stormed Nazi-occupied France in the D-Day invasion of June 1944.
Bain, pictured here at center, flanked by other Dade veterans as Ted Rumley reads the proclamation, spoke briefly about the invasion, noting how many of his friends had not returned. “Some way, somehow, here I am,” he said. “I’m so glad that somebody cares.”
The Commission approved SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds of $3682 to pay for air packs for the New Home Fire Department and $25,150 to buy Parks and Recreation a new tractor.
The investment was well worth it, intimated District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman; there have been 231 games at the county’s Four Fields this year, and the 12-and-under Dizzy Dean tournament is upcoming this month.
District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith attacked the Northwest Georgia Economic Development Authority, directed by Sen. Mullis, for not living up to a promise to report to the commission quarterly. Local newsman Evan Stone, who represents Dade on the Authority, stood up to defend it, pointing out that the body had recently met in Dade and drawn little local attendance.
District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford used his monthly address to thank voters for reelecting him in the May 24 Republican primary; to comment on the budget process that he didn’t see where anything more could be cut; and finally to honor 16-year-old Brad Dyer, who Bradford said had been setting the 4-H world on fire with his champion steers.
Brad Dyer (left) with Commissioner Bradford and
County Agent Katie Hammond.
Young Dyer, son of the late Ted Dyer, Dade’s longtime county agent, spoke briefly about the livestock-raising biz. It’s not just a matter of getting ‘em, showing ‘em, and collecting ribbons for ‘em, he said: “It’s a lot of work.” He thanked Bradford, current county agent Katie Hammond, and his mother for paying for things.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public Library, reported that 1600 people had come through the library’s doors for its Festival of Life Health Fair on the 21st. She announced that federally-funded free lunches for children under 18 are available from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. all this month at the library on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Adults accompanying children can eat for $3.
The library’s summer reading program starts next Thursday, she said, and she reminded all that they can check out free summer fun at the library, which has passes for admission to Cloudland Canyon, the Atlanta Zoo and the Atlanta Puppet Theater.
Trenton Mayor Alex Case apologized for the temporary closure of the Jenkins Park playground; the city is installing new play equipment there, he said.
Peter Cervelli reported for the Dade Industrial Development Authority that Vanguard Trailer, the new plant that IDA worked to bring into the county, plans to open Aug. 1 and is currently hiring.
Out-of-towner Ragan Wooten appeared for the third straight month to petition the county to redress actions by its law enforcement and courts that he said had ruined his life since a traffic stop in 2009. County Executive Rumley said Dade had done everything it could for Ragan and that Ragan could go ahead and sue if he wanted to.
Ragan waved the letter provided to him by the county and said, “The number to Legal Assistance is to the food stamp department.”
The Dade County Commission meets on the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. in the county Administrative Building.