Rising taxes forcing Sapelo Island natives off land - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Rising taxes forcing Sapelo Island natives off land

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MCINTOSH CO., GA (WTOC) -

Slave Descendants on Georgia's picturesque Sapelo Island have held onto their ancestral land since the end of the Civil War,  but it's being ripped out from under them by rising property taxes.

 "Once we lose the land, through this strategy of increasing taxes, we're gone as a people," said Benjamin Hall.

 According to the natives , there taxes increased by more than 500 percent overnight. It went from more than $2,000 to $10,836.

 They're getting nothing in return: no schools, police, or services like trash pick-up. The roads are still not paved. There's a ferry to get on and off the island, but it doesn't run at night.

 The residents are descendants of the hundreds of slaves brought to Sapelo from West Africa in the 1800s. Living remnants of the Gullah Geechee culture. Fewer than 50 still live there.

 "That's part of what built this country," said Charles Hall. "Sapelo beginning the only intact Gullah Geechee community in the country that's left."

 For most, selling out is not an option.

 "I told one guy it was priceless, and he said everything has a price," Cornelia Bailey said, " and I said, you don't know me. This is priceless. You don't have enough money to buy it, so forget it."

 The head of the tax assessors board, James Larkin suggest the Sapelo residents brought this on themselves, saying, "If they hadn't started selling their property there wouldn't be a problem."

 Islanders say they will continue to fight, with hope that there will be future generations calling the Island home. 

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