Pooler, in west Chatham County, is one of coastal Georgia's fastest growing communities. More people, more business, and some growing pains, including growing expenses, have community leaders asking whether they should raise taxes. For the first time in five years, they're looking at raising the millage rate, and while it's a relatively small increase, the people who live and work there are still concerned.
The city's population has more than doubled in the last eight years. Along with that growth comes the need for more city services and higher city taxes.
"The plans are for this to be enough money so it won't have to go up next year or in future years," said Mayor Mike Lamb.
In a public forum Thursday night, Mayor Lamb explained that, with more than $6 million in expenses this year, the city needs to raise its millage rate to 4.25 mils or about a half a mil more than last year. The millage rate increase will only add about $15 to the average homeowner's city tax bill, but on top of growing county property taxes, it has some homeowners asking how much growth is too much.
"At what point do we stop?" asked Pooler resident Stephen Holbrook. "How many hotels and gas stations do we need in Pooler?"
The mayor admits the community is growing, even though Pooler lost out when automaker DaimlerChrysler pulled out of a deal to build a van plant at I-16 and I-95 last year.
"Pooler was going to grow whether DaimlerChrysler came here or not, and that's evident since the announcement that they're not coming," said Mayor Lamb. "If they announced they were coming again, things would probably grow even faster."
Stephen Holbrook says that growth concerns him even more than his tax bill. "I moved out here because it was a small town," he said. "I don't like living in big metropolitan areas and if it comes to that, I'll have to move."
Pooler will hold another public forum on the millage rate next Thursday at 2pm at City Hall. The council will vote on the millage next month. Mayor Lamb says if it passes and it turns out to be more money than they need, they will roll the millage back next year.