Public hearing held for proposed property tax increase - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Public hearing held for proposed property tax increase

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The Chatham County Commission held the second of three public hearings Thursday on a proposed property tax increase.

Commissioners say they are looking at raising the millage because of a need to staff the new Chatham County Jail. However, citizens say they can't afford to pay anymore taxes.

Concerned property owners showed up to the County Commission Meeting Room Thursday morning to speak their minds.

"We're dependent on Social Security and limited returns on our 401K programs and to pontificate changes on this magnitude is a severe burden to a lot of people," said Ray Piechocki, one Chatham County resident who spoke at the hearing.

Some questioned certain increases, like advertising and consulting fees, in the proposed budget.

The proposed increase is about 1.4 mills or a 13 percent increase over the rollback rate. Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott says he believes the board will have to vote for the increase if it wants to staff the new detention center at the sheriff's complex.

Earlier this year, commissioners got an early estimate of more than $58 million to operate the jail just in the first year. The price tag goes up after that.

"Almost all of the other things that are under consideration could be absorbed within the existing budget by freezing hiring, finding or eliminating programs that we don't think adequately serve the citizens," said Scott. "So there's opportunities for cuts. But there's no way you can cut yourself to the extent that you can staff the new facility. "

The final public hearing will be next Friday at the next County Commission Meeting where they will vote on the final millage rate and budget.

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