Public Speaks at Millage Rate Hearing

Prior to the vote on the millage rate increase, the public had its say one more time and the third and final public hearing on the proposed tax hike.

During the public hearing, more than 15 people stood up and spoke to commissioners, opposing the millage rate hike.

Bobby Thomas said taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of additional taxes and calls on the county to cut its budget.

“These departments … they are going to have to reach back and do some cuts,” said Thomas. “It does not need to be put on the citizens.”

Some of those opposed to the millage rate increase questioned the need to fund the Stephens County Development Authority or called for cuts to agencies like the Senior Center.

Others, like Ed Mills, said a millage rate increase will hurt the local economy and prevent job growth needed in the community.

“In 2013, the Department of Commerce predicted that Stephens County would have zero growth for the next 40 years,” said Mills. “With the tax increases we are going to be burdened with, that is not going to be a prediction. That is going to be a fact.”

Meanwhile, Tim Hale called on commissioners to restore one of the budget cuts made in last week’s called meeting held in an effort to cut the budget and reduce the millage rate.

Hale, who said he was representing the Citizens Advisory Panel on Litter and Blight and Keep Toccoa-Stephens County Beautiful, called on commissioners not to get rid of the state inmate litter pick-up crew.

He said that crew provides an important service to the county.

“Time and again, litter and blight abatement has been identified as a highly significant barrier to economic growth and to the well-being of Stephens County,” said Hale, who added commissioners have repeatedly accepted this conclusion.

Other speakers Tuesday called on commissioners to find ways to expand the county’s tax base.