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Long County raises millage rates
Long tax increase
Long County commissioners discuss the coming year's millage rate. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
At its Dec. 1 meeting, the Long County Commission voted to adopt the proposed $6,335,817 budget for 2009-10. The budget includes a millage rate increase of 2.66, from 13.05 to 15.71 mills.
According to Commission Chairman Bobby Walker, the increase is necessary for several different reasons, including the bad economy, a reduction in revenue and an increase in the cost of providing health insurance for county employees.
“If I had to say one of the biggest reason that we are having to propose raising the millage rate, is as a result of the increase to provide health insurance to our employees,” he said.
The chairman said  there was a 57 percent increase in the health -insurance costs for this year.  The county’s provider is Principal Insurance Company. Walker said the commission expects insurance costs to rise about $240,000, and the one mill increase will garner about $236,000.
Regarding the insurance costs, a few residents at the meeting asked about the possibility of furloughing county employees or having the employees pay a portion of their insurance premiums.
Walker said the commission is looking into those options, but nothing had been decided. He said there are only a few  county employees the commission could require to take furloughs. Staffers employed under a constitutional officer cannot be furloughed.
The sheriff’s department’s budget also was met with criticism. It proposes buying three new vehicles and includes a significant amount to pay department members overtime.
Commissioner Cliff DeLoach said, “Things are tight right now, and I just can’t see buying these new vehicles when things are as bad as they are.”
Walker said the purchase would include a van to transport prisoners to Brantley County, which offered Long County the best rate for housing inmates.
DeLoach said if county funds are needed for the van, it should be accessible to the entire county, not just the sheriff’s department.
Several meeting attendees questioned the proposed overtime pay when part-time workers are already employed. Walker responded, “We can’t control that.”    Commissioner Andy Fuller said, “Well then, we need to stop putting it in the budget then.”
The commission voted unanimously to adopt the proposed budget. Walker said that the current budget is not set in stone, but it is critical to get something adopted to start the process of securing a final budget.
There will be three public hearings on the proposed budget. Public input is encouraged. The meeting will be at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 14,  and 5 p.m. Dec. 21.
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