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Residents grill commissioners over taxes
MR deputy pay
LCSD Chief Deputy Robert Berry voiced concerns over the new pay system for Long County employees at the budget hearing this past Tuesday. - photo by Mike Riddle / Coastal Courier
LUDOWICI - The Long County Commissioners had a public hearing on its proposed 2007-08 budget Tuesday and the meeting drew much input from the public.
The issues that drew the most comments and questions were how reassessed property values and millage rate would affect tax bills and the county's new pay system for its employees.

Tax bills

Jeannette Kasperian complained about not getting her tax bill yet.
"I haven't received my bill yet, but I know my assessment is almost twice as much as it was last year." She said. "Even if you back the millage down, how is it going to affect my bill."
Kasperian's son Eric, also had questions about the bill being sent late.
"With the delay, who will be responsible for the fines from the state to the county, I've heard rumors that it could be as high as two or three hundred thousand dollars."
In response, County Commission Chairman Randy Wilson said, "We have backed our mileage rate down from 18.32 to 13.06. By doing this everyone will see some increase, but the bill should be relatively the same as it was last year."
The county's Chief Appraiser Beverly Johnson said the drastic increase in the assessed values was resulted from the evaluation being in 2001 and from higher market values over the last two years.
Johnson also said a fine from the state was likely, but it would be $2,000-$3,000.
Rhonda McClelland asked, "With all of this development, we're seeing, and all the building, why can't the mileage be cut even more."
Commissioner Mike McGowan responded by saying, "The only major change to the budget is in that we tried to establish a fair pay scale to help bring the pay up for the county employees, there isn't a big change to the budget."
He added, "But we don't really set the millage rate, it really sets itself. After we gather all revenues from our departments and then the expenditures, the millage is applied to meet the budget."
"I believe the proposed overall millage rate for everything (county, BoE, state and school bond) is supposed to drop from around 34 (34.27) to 25 (25.36)," McGowan said.

Pay Scale Proposal
Becky Fowler, who works in the Tax Commissioner's Office and LCSD Deputy Shane Middleton, questioned the county's manner of paying for longevity, claiming that the manner proposed wasn't fair to employees.
"How can a part-time employee in one office make more than a part-time employee in another office," Fowler asked.
Middleton also said one deputy at the sheriff's office, who had been employed for less time, was now earning more, and he didn't think this was fair.
McGowan replied, "An employee's longevity is taken into account, so a part-time employee who has been an employee for a period of time could be making more; that could happened."
Chief Deputy Robert Berry also questioned his pay, and the pay of the chief investigator, claiming that even though both positions were paid the same wages, the investigator would actually earn more because of overtime.
After the meeting Berry said, "This pay system doesn't look at everything, and I just don't think its right."
McGowan said, "When we started this, our intent was for no person to lose money, and for every employee to get an increase. But what we also did was look at the positions and what that position did and what it was responsible for.
"We have tried to bring the pay up for our employees, its not where the rest of the world is yet, but it is better than what it was in the past."
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