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Few attend first city tax hearings

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POSTED: November 11, 2013 9:25 a.m.

Hinesville held two of three required public hearings Thursday on changing the city’s property tax millage.
The first hearing, which started at 11:30 a.m. attracted two city residents. The second, which started at 6 p.m., had no public participation.
Following a call to order by Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier, the first meeting got underway with City Manager Billy Edwards reading the purpose of the meeting, officially called a Property Tax Increase Hearing.
In addition to the agenda sheet for the hearing, those attending received copies of the city’s 2013 tax digest and five-year history of levy. That document shows the millage rate for 2012 and 2013 at 10.5 mills.
“As you can see, we are not raising the millage rate,” Councilman Keith Jenkins said to a nearly empty council chamber.
An unidentified man and a female soldier sat near the back of the room. When Frasier called for public comments, Staff Sgt. Nicole Williams came to the podium and identified herself. She first explained that she has lived in Hinesville since 2006. She said the tax assessor had listed her home in the wrong zone from 2006-11.
It was listed as being in an unincorporated area of Liberty County when in fact it is in Hinesville. She said her taxes did go up when the error was discovered, but she wasn’t held liable for the tax difference for previous years. Still, Williams questioned if it was fair for her to now pay the higher city tax.
“Because your case was due to human error, you were not required to pay back taxes,” Edwards said. “You’re now paying for city services you were getting all those years without paying for them.”
Williams also asked about the value of her home as it was assessed by the tax assessor. She was concerned the home was valued below what she paid for it. She said although she plans to remain in Hinesville when she retires from the Army in two years, she’s afraid the low tax value on her home might make it difficult to sell.
Edwards told her the assessed value was not necessarily the marketprice for her home. Jenkins advised that unless she’s planning to sell, a lower assessment translates into lower taxes.
Williams then asked about the supposed tax increase. She was assured there is no increase. The millage rate is unchanged, Edwards told her.
The other person at the hearing said he was there so he could keep up with what’s going on in the city. He didn’t have any specific questions or comments.
Only city officials attended the evening hearing. After Mayor Jim Thomas called the hearing to order, he suggested they give the public more time. They waited about 15 minutes.
Frasier said he was pleased they hadn’t had to increase the millage rate this year. He noted the required Oct. 30 press release and ad the city had published in the Courier in compliance with Georgia law had confused and alarmed a lot of people. He said, however, he was grateful the Courier had a follow-up article in the Nov. 13 issue that clarified the tax issue. Edwards and Thomas seconded his comments.
The third public hearing for the tax issue is scheduled for Nov. 21 during the city council meeting.

 

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