The Liberty County Board of Commissioners voted to adopt the 2020 millage which increases property taxes. The vote happened at their regular meeting held Nov. 19.
The county’s increased tax millage rate has been advertised in the Coastal Courier and presented at three in-person public hearings which were also accessible on Facebook.
Public hearings were held on different days at different times: noon, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tax millage for next year will increase to 16.3 mills outside Hinesville and 14.8 mills inside Hinesville.
Two people took advantage of the opportunities to comment on the proposed tax hike. Bob Sprinkle, retired assistant county administrator, praised the hard work of officials but said he disagreed with the recent decision for the county to pay for additional Medicare coverage for elected officials who serve more than two terms. Sprinkle pointed out that county employees receive no equivalent benefit at all regardless of their years of service.
Another commentor, Johnny Howard, spoke to the commission at the Thursday hearing. He said that he thought the hearing schedule was not conducive to allow public participation and, “the schedule benefits primarily you folks and not the citizens of the county.
He criticized social and other programs and said, “Let parents feed their own children breakfast at home,” and page bag lunches. Parents should purchase computers and internet access for their children, he said.
Howard said there was a nanny state, “communist-like socialism that has got to stop,” or Americans would lose their freedom. He said maybe next year would be better for everyone.
Commissioner Pat Bowen questioned Howard about times for public meetings, saying, “We try to make it convenient for people to attend.” Howard said the best times would be mornings or late evenings.
In an exchange with Howard about government benefits such as the food program, Commissioner Justin Frasier said, “I’m not harassing you;” Howard replied, “You certainly are.” Howard said, “Let them use their welfare checks that they are spending on alcohol and drugs.”
Emphasizing that he was expressing his own opinion, Howard said Liberty County was experiencing, “the heavy hand of King George-like administration and government.”
Presenting the property tax plan, Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin used an example of a home with a fair market value of $150,000 and no exemptions to illustrate the cost of the millage increase. In the unincorporated area of Liberty County and the six smaller municipalities, not Hinesville, the tax would go up by $60, from $918 to $978.
The $150,000 home in Hinesville will pay $888 in county taxes, an increase of $22. Hinesville residents pay city taxes for a number of services and they are not required to pay county taxes for the same services provided by Hinesville.
Introducing the tax increase, Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said, “No elected person I have ever met wants to raise taxes,” but no other avenue could be found to fund essential services, particularly public safety. More than $1 million is allocated to continue development of countywide fire protection.
McGlothlin’s presentation noted that property tax exemptions have increased by more than $19 million, to $307 million in 2020. “Liberty is an exemption-rich county,” she said. Lovette said exemptions increased faster than the tax digest did.
After approving previously announced tax hikes the Liberty County Commission Thursday moved on to award the contract for the $8 million Head Start Center in Riceboro, plan updated solid waste collections centers and continue fire protection progress.
Only one qualified bid was received for the Head Start Center: Lavender and Associates for $8.4 million. A local Community Development Block Grant will pay $.5 million and much of the cost will be borne by federal funds.
County Engineer Trent Lott presented drawings of updates for the county’s recycling and solid waste convenience centers. Improvements are also scheduled at the county transfer station on Rogers Pasture Road. A consultant is working on general modernization of solid waste operations.
The commissioners are considering a lease of the sport fishing club at 1251 Kings Road on Colonels Island for use as a fire station. The new fire station on Islands Highway near Fort Morris Road is almost complete.
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