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Long County passes budget with tax hike
LONG commish budget
Commissioners Cliff DeLoach, left, and Bobby Walker did not agree on the new budget for Long County, though it did pass the whole commission. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
The Long County Commission approved a budget on Dec. 21, resulting in a tax increase for the county. The budget, which includes a 2.65 mill increase, passed narrowly with two of the five commissioners voting against it.
Commissioners Cliff DeLoach and Andy Fuller voted against, while commissioners Wallace Shaw, David Richardson and Chairman Bobby Walker voted in favor of the $6,335,817 plan.
“I totally disagree with it,” DeLoach said. “We have things in there that are not necessary and times are tight for people in this county right now.”
DeLoach made a motion to amend the budget to remove $68,000 allocated to purchase three new vehicles for the sheriff’s department.
“They just purchased seven new cars a couple of years ago and, I’m sorry, but with the people already having to deal with higher taxes from the board of education and losing some of the homestead exemption, I can’t see buying three new vehicles now,” he said.  
Fuller, who also voted against the budget, seconded DeLoach’s motion, but the measure failed when Shaw, Richardson and Walker opposed it.
According to Walker, the mill rate increase was necessary.
“We didn’t want to, but we had to raise the mill rate,” he said. “If there was anyway that we could have operated without doing so, we would have.”
Regarding the necessity of the rate raise, Walker said, “The biggest reason, was due to a mistake in the rate from last year. The way it was figured last time did not raise enough revenue to cover the county’s expenditures. The mill should have been higher then.”
According to Walker, the county came up approximately $600,000 short last year and without the tax increase this year, it would be short again.
“I’m not pointing any fingers at anybody, but I can show anyone who wants to see it, on paper, where we were short,” Walker said.
DeLoach, the only current commissioner who was on the board when the previous budget was passed, did not agree with Walker.
“This county operated, what from July, August and September from a surplus. Does that sound like we were in the hole? Anyone who knows anything about a county budget knows that revenue will always be coming in. In a perfect world, yes, we would have the money always there, but that’s not the way it works,” DeLoach said.
“The only money we borrowed was a $70,000 bond, which we paid back. When July came around, it was paid off and we had a balanced budget,” he said. “The reason we’re over now is because of things that the county is buying, and employees that are being hired without all of the commissioners approving them.”
Regarding additional employees, Walker said, “A lot of people have said we could furlough our employees or cut some positions. A lot has been said about what we should do, but the bottom line is that there is no way this county could have operated without increasing the millage rate.”
According to Long County Chief Tax Assessor Beverly Johnson, the previous mill rate for Long County was 13.06, and the new rate is 15.71.
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