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4-23-07 Oconee Tax Assessments & Tax Increases

Like most Oconee Citizens, we recently received our “annual notice” of an increase in the Tax Assessed Value on our 35 year-old home. Without a decrease in millage, the tax increase should be approximately $ 190.59. . A recent Oconee Leader article indicates that a majority of the Board wants to reduce taxes. There is absolutely no reason why they can’t.

AVOC

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April 22, 2007

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Oconee Tax Assessments & Tax Increases

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Like most Oconee Citizens, we recently received our “annual notice” of an increase in the Tax Assessed Value on our 35 year-old home.   Without a decrease in millage, the tax increase should be approximately $ 190.59. This is not an isolated incident.See analysis of several assessments below.

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This has become a regular event in the last 6 years.   Our taxes continue to increase despite increase homestead exemption credit from the State, and significantly increased Tax Digest and significantly increased LOST, SPLOST & E-LOST Sales tax receipts. SEE: 3-22-07 Oconee County BOC has huge “SLUSH FUND” – Overtaxing!

ALSO: 3-30-07 Oconee’s Melvin Davis could give tax break of over $ 200 for $ 200,000 Homeowners

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The County net millage rate for maintenance and operations was kept the same at 8.48 Mils from 2000 through 2005 despite significant increases in revenues and the property tax digest. During the same period the Board of Education’s net millage rate for maintenance and operations increased from 14.25 to 15.5 mils. 6-13-05 Oconee Can Afford More Property Tax Relief - Sales Taxes Part 1;6-13-05 Oconee Sales Tax (LOST) For General Fund - Part 2;6-13-05 Oconee SPLOST Sales Tax (Capital Projects) 1993-2005 Part 3

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While our taxes and revenues go up, Oconee County has been amassing a huge Fund Balance (Surplus) that is used to fund things “Outside” the budget process.   LOOK AT THE COUNTY’S BALANCE SHEET   Oconee.Audit.Summary.7.06.Audit.3.16.07.pdfx

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The General Fund budget is where our property taxes go.   SPLOST, Bonds and Utility funds have little bearing on our property tax bill.   In FY 2005-6, the General Fund revenues were $ 20,799.752 and expenditures of $ 14,563,786 with revenue EXCESS OF $ 6,235.966.

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A recent Oconee Leader article indicates that a majority of the Board wants to reduce taxes.   There is absolutely no reason why they can’t.See Excerpts below.It also gives insight into the budget process (or lack thereof).   We always gave Department heads time before the whole board.I wonder how many times the Road Superintendent has appeared before the Board since 2000 to discuss the County’s serious road needs……


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4-20-07 Oconee Budget Process in Progress

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The Oconee Leader

46 Greensboro Hwy Ste A

P. O. Box 967

Watkinsville, Georgia30677

editor@theoconeeleader.com

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April 19, 2007

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County preparing budget, hopes to lower taxes

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By Ingunn Mercer

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In planning for the 2007-8 fiscal year, ….. County will hold a public hearing on May 29, and the budget is expected to be adopted on June 5 for the fiscal year starting July 1.

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Chairman Melvin Davis said he would be surprised if the board decides to raise taxes.

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“A strong tax collection this year as well as strong sales tax, SPLOST and diversification in the tax base enables us to keep the millage rate down.I don’t think you’ll see the board raise taxes,” said Davis.

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He said the board members want to make sure they spend the taxpayers’ money wisely.

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“I think all of us want to make a frugal budget.We don’t want fluff, excess in the budget.We want to meet the needs of the citizens and we don’t want to shortchange our taxpayers.The citizens of Oconee County want quality products, and they want them now.”

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The budget planning started in January with the departments going over their previous budgets……. The draft will be available on the county website by the middle of May.

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'The chairman mentioned certain areas the county may focus its finances on for the upcoming tax year.

"Our county is growing and there is a personnel need. Our fire department has requested a new pumper truck worth $14,500; the Sheriff has requested five new jailers and additional road deputies.   New facilities like the new park and senior center also require personnel and maintenance.   We also probably need a new building inspector in the county," he said.

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The budget hearings last week didn't draw many spectators. Davis said except for the department heads presenting their budgets, only a handful of press and de­partment employees were present.

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"'I think that’s a good thing.I think people are fairly satisfied with the way their money is being spent,” he said.   The budget for the current tax year was a total of $ 43,316,480.The chairman still didn't know exactly how much surplus the county has for this year but he estimated that it was somewhere around $ 10 Million.

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"You can call it surplus or emergency funds. We should keep 25 to 30 percent of the budget in reserve for emergencies," he said.

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'But the surplus can also be used for other things. Davis said the board will be discussing whether to pay off the lease purchase they have on the new jail; to save he tax payers money in the long run. The lease purchase is $ 10 Million.

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"That is a question we have to consider.

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Also, like we have talked before, there is a company looking at the Orkin Tract, and if they decide on that, the county has expenses.We have to put in water, sewer and roads,” he said.

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"In the long term that is exactly what we are doing.”

He said the budget for fiscal year, 2007-­2008 will likely 'increase by about 10 percent, and be in the vicinity of $ 50 Million.

“Will we fund all of that? No, we won’t.But that is what the Departments probably will ask for,” he said…….

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Commissioner Margaret Hale said she' wants to see the county employee salaries being raised.

"Public safety has always been a con­cern for me. ……

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Hale also wants to focus on the importance of recreation in the new budget. "We are building a new park, and we have to look at this carefully.   This is a top priority for me.    Again, I’d like for us to re­duce the millage rate like we did last year," she, said.

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Commissioner Chuck Horton is also concerned with public safety …… But Horton said he wishes, the budget hearings would be setup differently.

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'The department heads only get 15 minutes each. We only see these people once a year, and, it's' not fair to them. It is hard for us, what do you want to strike?We try to be good stewards of the dollars, but I’d rather have a different process.It would be nice to have quarterly meetings with the different departments to see what they’re doing well and what they don’t do so well.   That would give us a better picture of what we need to do with the money,” he said.

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He is aware this strategy would lead to more work for him and the other commissioners.

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“If you’re not willing to spend the hours, don’t run for the office,” he said.

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Horton said he wants to get some money back to the taxpayers.

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“I’m going to fight like a dog to get the taxes down.It is also public knowledge that we have a big fund balance (surplus).The last report I saw was $ 15 Million.We have deposited about $ 4 Million since then.I’d like to see some of this go back to the taxpayers,” he said.

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Commissioner Jim Luke said he also thinks the commissioners are a little removed from the day-to-day process.

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“I think it is hard to have to count on others to find out what really needs to be done,” he said.

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Luke said he has high hopes for lowering the millage rate.


4-22-07 Oconee County Tax Assessments up again!

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COUNTY MILLAGE RATE             26.18 

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CASE 1

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35 year old residence in unincorporated Oconee County

Increase of 7,280 in assessed value

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Tax Bill Increase at current Millage:$ 190.59

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CASE 2

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75 year old residence in Town

Increase of 2,800 in assessed value

Applicable Millage Rate:30.076 

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Tax Bill Increase at current Millage:$ 84.21

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CASE 3

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55 year old residence in unincorporated Oconee County

Increase of 3,920 in assessed value

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Tax Bill Increase at current Millage:$ 102.63

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CASE 4

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12 year old commercial office in unincorporated Oconee County

Increase of 6,516 in assessed value

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Tax Bill Increase at current Millage:$ 170.59


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