Hinesville City Councilman Jason Floyd said if he had been present for last Thursday’s meeting, he’d have supported the property-tax increase. His absence required Mayor Jim Thomas to make the tie-breaking vote to approve the city’s 1-mill property-tax hike.
“I approved the budget, so I would have voted for the increase,” said Floyd, a newlywed who was on his honeymoon Dec. 1-7. “It was not anything anybody wants to do, but as I explained during the budget workshop, it was what we needed to do, or we had to cut services.”
Floyd explained that 70 percent of the city’s budget represents salaries. He said they cut out employees’ merit raises and Christmas bonuses as well as the off-site planning retreat, but that wasn’t enough. They had to raise property taxes or cut services or department staff. The leaders did not want to reduce services, and no one wanted to cut any positions, he said.
“We met for hours and hours and went through line item by line item (during the budget meetings),” Floyd said. “I was the only one in favor of reducing some services.”
One of the services he said he was willing to reduce was the Liberty Transit System, which now runs on a reduced schedule.
He said he thought when all members of the council agreed to the proposed budget, everyone agreed to the property-tax increase that was required in order to balance that budget.
Although other council members had expressed they didn’t like the idea of a tax increase, he admitted he was somewhat surprised when he heard the council had split its vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and Councilman David Anderson approving the tax hike and Council members Keith Jenkins and Kenneth Shaw disapproving it.
During the Oct. 9 budget workshop, it was noted by the Courier that all members of the council expressed concern about only giving city employees a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise and having to increase the property taxes. All agreed, however, it was the best they could do.
“I thought it was understood this was the way the budget had to go,” he said, emphasizing the council could only approve a balanced budget.
Without the tax increase, he said the only way to achieve a balanced budget was to cut services or lay off employees.
Floyd explained the vote on the budget and subsequent tax increase normally would have taken place in November. The need for the tax increase and delay in getting the 2012 tax digest to determine the increase needed delayed the vote, he said.
He said he did not plan to miss last Thursday’s vote. However, because his wedding and honeymoon had been planned seven or eight months ago, he could not reschedule it in order to be there for last week’s council meeting. Even if he had been there, he said the outcome of the property-tax vote would have been the same.
Floyd first was elected as city council representative for District 2 in 2009.