Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charlton Throws out Budget Plan; Commissioners Get an Earful from County's Riled Taxpayers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charlton Throws out Budget Plan; Commissioners Get an Earful from County's Riled Taxpayers

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

FOLKSTON - In response to widespread taxpayer opposition, Charlton County commissioners have rejected a budget they recently created for the upcoming year.

At a public meeting Thursday, the County Commission told a standing room-only audience that spilled into a hallway that it will throw out a proposed budget that is about $2 million higher than this year's.

Property tax bills would have increased $200 to $400, County Manager Steve Nance said.

The commissioners had discussed the budget in meetings the past several months but missed one state deadline and are about to miss another one.

"We're going to get our side straightened out first," Commissioner Ronnie Pollock said.

The proposed budget resulted from several factors including timber growers' successful challenge of their higher property assessments. The county is also faced with higher costs for housing inmates at the county jail and, like all other counties in Georgia, must make up for the loss of property tax relief grants from the state.

The county borrowed $2 million to make ends meet this year.

"The timber company returns was a big part of that," he said.

The county has already missed the Aug. 1 deadline to inform the state Department of Revenue of the proposed tax rate and provide proof the $17.4 million budget was properly advertised, Nance said. A state-granted extension expires Wednesday, he said. The county has asked for another extension, but Nance said he is unsure if it will be granted.

County attorney Ed Skorupski said the state could levy a "variety of fines" for being late should the state not approve another extension.

"This is a tough year for local governments," he said. "I think, arguably, we can fight the penalty."

Nance said another budget will be created before the next commission meeting in early October after commissioners meet with department heads to discuss how they can reduce expenses. If department heads are unwilling to make cuts "then we'll have some kind of confrontation," Nance said.

TAXPAYERS UNHAPPY

During a public comment period, residents expressed displeasure about steadily rising property taxes. …

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