Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown spoke at the Feb. 9 Rotary Club of Hinesville meeting.
He discussed what he wanted to accomplish during his term, including his top issues, which are to lower property taxes and bring back the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
“Taxes have gotten a little higher, our millage is kind of high and there’s a lot of things that have contributed to that — to include a lack of SPLOST — but we’ve got to do that,” Brown said.
He said not enough spending can be cut from the city’s budget to affect taxes.
“So we’ve got to do some things, like we need to increase the property tax revenue, of course, without raising taxes,” Brown said. “And one of the ways we could do that is bring in more business that pays more taxes for their property than houses and hopefully offset that. And we’re in the process of doing that.”
Brown wants to continue to make Hinesville more business-friendly, but he said the city is friendlier to business than the common perception.
He wants to improve quality of life and bring community leaders together to discuss bringing back a sense of community to Hinesville.
He is also committed to the redevelopment of downtown, including continuing to improve Memorial Drive from the new Armstrong Liberty Center to Fort Stewart.
“We need to strengthen our relationship with Fort Stewart. There was a little snafu, but we had nobody at the swearing-in from Fort Stewart. Not one person,” Brown said.
Maj. Gen. James Rainey, the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, recently visited the City Council and said he wants to strengthen the relationship between the city and post, according to Brown. He also said the city works closely with Fort Stewart’s garrison commander, Col. Townley Hedrick.
“We’ve got to restore trust in our elected officials,” Brown said. “Some of that gets me back to SPLOST. We’ve got to pass our SPLOST. We’re the most picture-perfect community in the state of Georgia for SPLOST because of the growth that we’ve experienced.”
Brown added that some counties no longer have SPLOST because they do not need it, but Liberty does.
The county needs to clearly outline the use of the SPLOST funds, Brown said, because people were confused about how they were being used, especially for the bonds on the new City Hall and Justice Center, which are still being paid off after the most recent six-year SPLOST cycle ended last year.
If SPLOST is passed again, it should generate between $55 million and $60 million, according to Brown. During a recent planning workshop, county officials put the estimate at $54 million.
“I think you take whatever it takes, and I think that number is somewhere between $20 million and $25 million, to pay those buildings off, so that we won’t ever have to think about them again in a SPLOST issue,” Brown said.
“That will leave a fairly large amount to do other things like streets and roads and recreational stuff and warm and fuzzy things that hopefully people will want to do. But I think we’ve got to do that, and I’m hearing that more and more from the county, too,” Brown added.
Spending at new retail that is proposed to come to the city during the next six years would also help raise SPLOST revenue if it is passed, according to Brown.