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Taxing authorities can't be trusted
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Editor, Has it escaped everyone’s attention that the public notices of property tax increases were published the morning after the SPLOST vote? The authorities held off on publishing the public notices until after the polls closed so voters wouldn’t suspect they, Liberty County authorities, are going to get the SPLOST while raising property taxes.
Do they think we are that blind?  In reviewing the figures in the public notices, I calculate that between the development/hospital authorities, and board of commissioners, they have raised our property taxes a combined 256 percent during the past five years. That’s 51 percent per year. Nearly half of that increase comes from the hospital authority — 24 percent. The hospital authority got an 82 percent increase this year alone. They built a new hospital, and could not make the payments on the old one, so we taxpayers are footing the bill plus interest.
That is like me abandoning my current home and building a brand new one and saying, “Let my neighbors pay off my old mortgage. I’ve moved on!”
Hospital authority Chairman Jon Long supposedly reported to the grand jury revenues were up an average of 68 percent from six different sources. It would appear to me that business is booming. The public notice indicates they want a 14.45 percent increase in 2008.
It is not just the hospital. I would like to know why the county commissioners needed a 15 percent average annual increase during the past five years, and a 59 percent hike in 2003 alone? The development authority got an annual increase of 12 percent with 26 percent and 16.34 percent in 2003 and 2007 respectively. I see these percentages as far above what inflation warrants. They just got approval for the SPLOST tax with a 75 percent increase in proposed revenue generated, and they are going to raise our property taxes again! It reminds me of the famous quote from Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more?”
In 1992 it was enacted that funds from the first year of SPLOST could be used for capital projects, but the second and subsequent years were to be used to reduce property taxes. The authorities quickly found a catch phrase, “We are reducing your property taxes. If it weren’t for SPLOST, your property taxes would be much higher. Everyone helps to pay through the sales tax system thus reducing your proper taxes.”
Never mind, that our authorities are spending our hard earned dollars as carefree as a flower girl disperses rose petals at a wedding. This does not include the millions of dollars wasted in interest alone, that serves no purpose but to reduce the amount of food on our family table. Several independent studies have been made of the effectiveness of the Georgia’s SPLOST.
One study is by Mr. Changhoon Jung of the political science department at Auburn University. After a 13-year study, he found that SPLOST reduced property taxes by 28 cents out of every dollar, but increased spending by 48 cents out of every dollar. His conclusion, “the finding illustrates that local option sales tax has partially achieved the objectives of property tax relief, but on balance it is more an augmentation of than an effective substitute for property taxes in Georgia Counties.”  Hmmm, it would seem that marinas, justice centers, airports, comfortable jails, landscaping and trips to China are more critical than providing the amenities we, the taxpayers, thought we were paying for.
Ponder these: The above authorities and the education authority expect to collect $51 million each, yet they bicker about funding a resource officer for our middle school. My neighbors have respiratory conditions and live on unpaved, dirt roads breathing dust. We don’t have adequate street lighting for security, and some citizens pay for their own street lights. The Hinesville jobless rate is 6.6 percent and overall the highest level in 15 years. Georgia is one of the few states that tax those families below the poverty line. We’re talking the extremely poor here, “A family of four making less than $15,000 a year?”
Our fire fighting equipment is antiquated. Riceboro has the SNL chemical plant that, if it caught fire or exploded, it would endanger lives within a five-mile radius. The commission gave them $15,000 to buy a fire truck (they cost more than $250,000). There are 61,000 residents and only 16 with airplanes parked at our airport. One-third of the pages of our newspaper are devoted to public notices — most of foreclosure — and 23 in Liberty County in just one paper. And the list of necessary expenditures to protect and enhance the quality of life of our citizens is endless and ignored by the commission.  
Our founding fathers distributed power and decision making among three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — so no one agency would have total control. Much like avoiding, putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.
Who provides the checks and balances for Liberty County?  Here is a thought. Let’s form a citizens board picked at random from the voters list and have them serve two years. Any county expenditures more than $500,000 would have to be approved by these ordinary citizens.

Terry Doyle
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