Part 2 - Economic development letter criticizes Watchdogs on county budget issues

At the 12/19/05 BOC meeting, the room was full of people from at least 4 different agencies that receive County funding. They were there to request that money be added back to their budgets. 


Carol McElheney represented the Library.  She indicated that they might have to cut back on the hours the library was open as well as personnel.


David Owens representing the Hospital read a letter and complained that they might not be able to build a new hospital if they didn’t get all their funding.  Comm. Bernard asked Mr. Owens why the hospital never let the Oversight Committee know that the hospital had made an $800,000 profit last year.  Comm. Bernard added that Mr. Owens had told the BOC last January that the hospital would lose about $150,000, but instead made an $800,000 profit.  Note:  The hospital will receive over $1,000 per day from the County (taxpayers) even with a 20% budget cut.


Joan Bell representing Family Connection also read a letter and asked that their funding be restored.  She told of what all Family Connection does, including Ferst Books.  Note: About 8 years ago the State initiated the Family Connection concept.  The counties were told it would cost them nothing; they just needed to “sign off” on the “project.”  Now every year, the County is asked for money.  There are other counties that do not provide Family Connection with funds, but instead such organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc. raise funds for Ferst Books and other projects. 


Paul Holmes representing Economic Development (DAJC) said he had a letter, but instead of reading it he said, “We think we’re doing it on cheap.” He said it was difficult to carry out their charge—develop industry and create jobs.  Note: After the meeting we asked for a copy of the letter he presented, as well as a copy of the Hospital’s letter.


The EDA letter given to the BOC accused the TWG of having a “budget hit list” and made several other critical remarks concerning TWG and the budget cuts.  Even though Paul Holmes, Chairman of the DAJC, signed the letter and presented it, Ms. Travillo (EDA Director) has since emailed us and said she wrote it.  We have several comments on the EDA letter (which is on our website for you to read at www.taxdogs.com.)


  1. The TWG has no budget “hit list” or “agenda” other than our mission statement of wanting lower and equitable property taxes.  You don’t get lower taxes by increasing the budget every year;


  1.  The TWG does not promote any specific budget cuts other than cutting the supplement from the Magistrate Judge and/or making him fill out a time sheet for the hours he ACTUALLY works as Magistrate Judge.  We did urge the BOC to hold the line on spending, and they did keep the millage rate the same.   (Ms. Travillo was at this meeting and heard all comments made);




  1. The TWG feels it is improper for the EDA or any other agency to always have their hand out for more money.  They do not attend meetings, do not seem to appreciate what has happened with past county finances, and they seem not to understand the budget process, etc.   Most of these agencies seem to want to raise taxes to fund their wants rather than find alternative means of financing;


  1. The EDA letter contains a number of inaccuracies.  The TWG does encourage citizens to talk to commissioners and let them know how they feel about many issues—including taxes.  Comm. Bernard made it clear at the 12/19/05 meeting that they were elected to keep taxes low and that he intended to stand by that pledge;


  1. TWG Chairman, Mary Patrick, discussed some budget issues at the Budget Hearings which is a Public Hearing process.  Two of the issues were that the Landfill Budget had been “plugged” and that the Curbside collections were running at about 65%.  Ken Tillman, Landfill director, had stated at an early meeting that the revenues at the landfill would be about $250,000 less than what Mr. Myers (the previous County Manager)  had plugged into his budget.  Mr. Tillman had only submitted revenues of about $110,000, not $365,000.  One of the Commissioners commented that it was understood that Curbside profits would take care of that.  They were then given figures as to what the collections were running each quarter—about 65%.  At that point, Mrs. Patrick pointed out that the BOC would have at least a $250,000 shortfall if they didn’t do somethingLast year the old BOC was told by the TWG they would have about a $500,000 shortfall, but did nothing.  The 2004 audit shows that they actually ended up overspending by about $900,000. 


  1. The TWG encourages anyone that receives money from the County to start looking at the budget every year and come up with some alternatives—other than to raise taxes.  Citizens should attend BOC meetings regularly and not just when they want money. All citizens, including Taxpayers Watchdog Group, Inc. have a vested interest in our county and the spending of tax money.


The TWG works for all citizens in monitoring how our taxes are spent and insuring that the process takes place in the open.  Too many people in our county are struggling with taxes now.  We don't need more increases but better ways to use the money now being spentWe need ideas and alternate revenue sources—something other than just increasing taxes.


We remind the EDA and all citizens as to what the TWG Mission Statement is and has been:

Mission Statement:
** To keep the taxpayers of Jasper County, Georgia informed as to where and how their tax dollars are being spent.
** To keep the taxpayers abreast of local policies and laws being discussed and enacted.
** We advocate more open government, less government spending, and lower property taxes.


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