County to Vote on Tax Hike After Public Hearings - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/10/05

County to Vote on Tax Hike After Public Hearings

For the first time since 1992, Chatham County residents may be faced with a tax increase. The county commission decided today to advertise for a millage increase.

But before any vote to increase taxes happens, there will be three public hearings where you can give your input.

It could cost an average homeowner about $20 more a year, but a tax increase may be the only option if the county wants to provide services to residents.

"This has nothing to do with what party you belong to, this is a responsibility for us to be fiscally responsible and help the citizens of our community," chairman Pete Liakakis said. 

Balancing the budget is hard, and Chatham County commissioners are tasked with finding solutions to new problems this year. According to county manager Russ Abolt, "extreme increase in expenditures primarily coming from the State of Georgia."

"For example, the public defender's office, we're going to spend millions of dollars on a public defender that the State of Georgia should be paying for," said Liakakis.

Jail costs, fuel costs, storm water drain costs and others are on the rise. And commissioners are trying to squeeze in these new costs with a limited amount of money. That means they may have to raise your taxes.

County manager Abolt recommended .67 mils increase for all Chatham County residents. That means if you own a $100,000 home, you'll pay $18.76 cents more a year. And people living in unincorporated Chatham could face an additional .25 mills increase, which for a $100,000 home means an extra $7 a year.

They haven't voted on it yet. First they'll hold public hearings.

"This is a hard decision, because we have to look at services we require for citizens, like police," said Liakakis. "We have to protect the public, look at the overall budget and demand for service."

The public hearings are on June 28 at 9:30am and 6pm and on July 8 at 9:30am. The commission will also vote on the possible increase on July 8.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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