You may have heard that the Hall County Commission is looking to raise your taxes just like the City of Flowery Branch did. Part of the debate is around what is a tax increase and that is where the Taxpayer Bill of Rights comes into play. The Association of County Commissioners in Georgia explains it this way:
“In 1999, the Georgia General Assembly passed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights with the intent to prevent what was referred to as “backdoor tax increases.” The Taxpayer Bill of Rights and rules developed by the Georgia Department of Revenue to implement this legislation establish a process that all local government jurisdictions (counties, cities and boards of education) must follow. This process ensures full disclosure to the public for any increases, including increases that result from value inflation. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights was established to notify the public about inflationary increases to existing property values at the local government level. It also enhanced individual property owner’s rights when objecting to and appealing an increase in a property’s appraised value to the county board of assessors.
According to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, each taxing jurisdiction must roll back (or reduce) the millage rate each year to offset any inflationary increases in the tax digest. If the county or other governing authority elects to set their millage rate higher than the rollback rate, then they must follow certain requirements to notify the public that taxes are being increased. The public notification process includes three public hearings, public notices of the increase in the local newspaper and press releases.” (http://accg.org/websites/propertytax/taxpayer.html)
Because of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Hall County advertised a tax increase because the reappraised property tax values in the county resulted in a 4.43% increase in taxes. Now, the chairman doesn’t want you to know this; he wants you to know that “we are not here about a tax increase”.
There is a reason why I am losing hope in the process: the county held Budget Forums on May 18 and 19 for the staff and elected officials to come and make their requests to the commission. At the 9:23 mark during the May 14 meeting, Douglas Aiken asked the commission if the public could ask questions to the presenters at the budget forum. His request was denied (or ignored) and the staff and other elected officials received an unfettered opportunity to ask the commission for more money. Unfortunately, when the public received their opportunity to speak on the budget, they were limited to 2 minutes each starting at 14:42 in the video and continuing until 21:05 (6 minutes and 23 seconds). The Chairman, however, decided that the public was due a lecture going from the 24:14 mark all the way until 34:45. So while he only allowed the public to talk for about 5 and a half minutes, he chose to ramble on for 11 minutes and 31 seconds.
So basically, the Chairman decided that he doesn’t want to hear ideas from the public; he would just rather tell you what you don’t already know.