“We are not really operating this county in a business like fashion…” Richard Mecum, Chairman
Tomorrow night the county will hold the last “Public Forum” on the proposed tax increase and then vote on the budget. It looks like at tomorrow’s meeting, the Chairman will be ready to educate you on the true meaning of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights; but first, let’s look at what the Chairman told you on Monday.
The Chairman wants you to know that Hall County has the “Lowest Millage Rate of comparable County size in Georgia”. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Hall County is the 12th largest county in the state with 190,761 residents. The closest county to our size is Muscogee County (Columbus, Ga.), but you will often hear about our neighbor to the west, Forsyth County, with their 204,302 residents. The Department of Revenue publishes (pp. 20) a report every year looking at the total tax burden (including fire and schools) for each county. When you look at the total tax burden, it paints a different picture:
|County||Population||2014 Tax Burden|
When you look at the 4 counties on either side of us, you will see that we rank right it the middle at 4 out of 9. What the Chairman neglects to tell you when he shows the survey of millage rates, is that we break out the fire rate which is currently 2.4 mills. So when you add fire to the current rate of 5.989, we move up his list (but shhh, he doesn’t want you to know that).
The second thing the Chairman wants you to know is that we don’t pay our employees and that is why they are leaving. You see, the Chairman would have you believe that there is no turnover in the private sector. Oops, I think that is wrong too. “According to the 2011 XpertHR staff turnover rates and costs survey, labor turnover rates in the public sector stood at an average of 12.6% of employees at each organization, compared with 17.4% of workers in the private sector (Personnel Today).” According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the turnover rate for the public sector in 2014 was 16.1%. The Chairman’s reports (pp. 5) that we experienced 55% turnover in the last 5.5 years. If we look at the same data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, we did great when compared to the 89.1% turnover in government jobs nationwide. But since the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics don’t paint a need for more people, we should just leave that one alone too.
The last thing the Chairman wants you to know is that he wants us to balance the budget “without borrowing money” which he considers “maintaining budget solvency”. Guess what Chairman, your proposed budget “borrows” $2,037,540 (pp. 4). So is that your idea of “solvency”? Let me let you in on a little secret: if you notice, the 2015 adopted budget had $3.2m coming from “Prior Year Reserves”, but we never touched it. In fact, I hear that we are putting $1m more back into reserves. You see, we have always instructed staff to under estimate revenues and over estimate expenses. Unfortunately, you keep throwing around terms like “solvency” without really knowing what you are talking about. Unfortunately, when you tell the public (34:37) to ignore the public that tried to straighten you out, you just don’t look good.
We do need, however, to work on your concept of what a public hearing really is. You see in this meeting the public spoke for 8 minutes and 43 seconds. You, however, spoke for 12 minutes and 13 seconds. Do you remember the expression that “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason”? I have been concerned that I was going to have to run for Chairman, but after your last two meetings, I think there will be a line so I can stay retired.