Gwinnett Tax Increase on hold.

May 28, 2009 14:47 pm

by Buzz Brockway · 44 comments

Chairman Bannister says he’ll table it.

Bowing to intense public pressure, Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister just announced that he will table a proposed 25 percent increase in property taxes.

“We have heard the message sent to us by the citizens,” he told reporters, including the AJC’s Pat Fox. More details to come.

Chris May 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Crap, what am gonna do with all the torches and pitchforks now?

Romegaguy May 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

You could use them at an Ox rally…

Chris May 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Only need one for that. Two if True Grit showed up, but I only drive to Macon to get my marching orders from Erick.

debbie0040 May 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm

FreedomWorks and Atlanta Tea Party Patriots are sponsoring a Tax Protest Monday, June 1st at Suwanee Town Center Park . We will protest the Gwinnett County Commission’s considering a plan to raise property taxes by 25 – 30 %.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charles Bannister announced today that the proposal to hike property taxes in the county will be tabled for further review.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Chairman said he would table the millage rate increase at next Tuesday’s meeting in order to give the county more time to look for ways to cut expenses and look for ways to increase revenue other than a property tax hike.”

Table it? The protest is still on. We need a vote!! A strong message needs to be sent that we will not stand for a tax increase! We need to keep the pressure on. Chairman Bannister tabled the vote but did not cancel the public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, June 2nd at 10:30 am. I believe this means they can vote for the tax increase next month or the month after without having another round of public hearings.

Jonathon Krohn will be one of our speakers as will some of the Mayors in Gwinnett County . All Mayors in Gwinnett County are invited to speak.

FreedomWorks will hold a breakfast May 30th at the Golden Coral Restaurant at Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth . The breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Our guest speaker will be Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau. Commissioner Beaudreau

IndyInjun May 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm

OK.

I did not imagine an Icarus post blasting Erick’s Redstate Tantrum trashing we who don’t worship Cheney, Rush and Levin.

Who pulled it?

A suddenly remorseful Icarus?

A censoring Erick.

Pulling a post like that stinks.

Icarus May 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I pulled it. My decision.

It’s a Redstate rebuttal, and it belongs at RedState.

It’s still there for your viewing & commenting pleasure.

IndyInjun May 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Wild horses cannot drag me there.

If it means Erick keeps his gutter politics over there, good.

There is no sense bringing that BS here.

AubieTurtle May 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Debbi, I was wondering the same thing. It is a common ploy to table an unpopular proposal like this until the heat dies down and then sneak it through. If you all can get it withdrawn instead of tabled, your work will be worthwhile, though I’m still waiting to see the same aggressiveness on spending cuts.

debbie0040 May 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm

We are pushing spending cuts but think that public safety should be cut only as a last resort…

If the commission decides to do the right thing and decides to make hard choices by cutting spending not raise taxes, then we will be very supportive of them making tough decisions on spending cuts.

It is never too late to do the right thing!

YourFutureLeader May 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

Debbie,

What specific spending cuts are you pushing? As in what department/programs do you and your organization feel need to be cut or less funded?

Saying you want general spending cuts is great for a PR campaign but this is to a point now where real solutions with specific targets need to be brought forth and Im curious to know if the group you are working with has those solutions.

Harry May 29, 2009 at 11:45 am

Speaking for myself, let’s have 30% cuts across the board with exception of public safety. Eliminate the deadwood in all departments.

YourFutureLeader May 29, 2009 at 11:54 am

Harry,

Off hand do you happen to know how many jobs and services that would cut?

I have no earthly idea, Im just curious to know.

Bill Greene May 29, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I can go through the budget and find at least 30% cuts.

But I can’t find the budget. Has it been released to the public?

debbie0040 May 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm

One thing I would do is to take another look at the 8.25% pay raise given to non Public Safety county employees in the budget this year. I work in the private sector and we are all lucky to get a 2% pay increase.

dhancock May 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

The most detail for the 2009 County budget you can get is contained in the budget resolution they passed at the first of the year. It actually has more detail than you would think:
http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/departments/boc/pdf/2009_Budget_Adopted_Final.pdf
(or http://tinyurl.com/qqqp76 )

Bill Simon May 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Harry,

Speaking for myself, let’s have 30% cuts across the board with exception of public safety. Eliminate the deadwood in all departments.

That’s a great idea…IF those departments all have variable costs. If there are fixed costs that have to be paid regardless of how many people work there, then you may not be able to cut 30% out of every department.

Harry May 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Let me at those fixed costs.

YourFutureLeader May 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Bill G,

Finding 30% total in cuts though is not necessairly what Harry is referring to, or maybe it just made clear to me. I understood is be a 30% budget cut in each department.

09 Budget was passed in March but I can neither find it on the Gwinnett site or on the Department of Audits website.

debbie0040 May 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I would not do a 30% across the board cut. You have some departments that have been under funded and some that the previous budgets have been extremely generous to.

I went to the Gwinnett County web site and could not find an itemized , detailed budget. I could just find high level summaries by departments. Is there a budget that lists the departments and provides more detail like salaries, equipment, etc? Also, how much money is in the reserve or rainy day fund?

I did find a few detailed items that I have a question about. Why are we expanding and spending so much money on Parks and Rec? Shouldn’t that be expendible? How about the Tennis Center?

Can anyone shed light on these items? Greenways Acquisition/Development In prior years the amount spent was 3,157,918 but this year the budget calls for
1 2,924,234 Another item is Rhodes Jordan Park 156,450 was spent in prior years but this year it is listed as 6 ,003,230 I am just curious as I really have no clue what they are. I assume that Rhodes Jordan Park is a park but don’t know about the other. Why the huge increase in the park?

Millions of familes across the US have had to take a hard look at their household budget and prioritize spending according to what is a necessity and what is expendible until better economic times are upon us. The Gwinnett County Commission should do the same.

I would say that Public Safety should not be touched.

Harry May 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Good points.

John Cook May 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm

One point to make clear–the commissioners didn’t back down–they merely “tabled” the vote. The hearing for Tuesday morning is still on, which means that even if they table it on Tuesday, they can still bring it up for a vote while nobody is watching when the heat is off–the deceitful foxes.

We need to demand that they vote NO on Tuesday–if they are genuinely listening to the people.

It is convenient that the Commissioners will not answer any questions from the public. They refer us to County employees. It is shameful that they hung the employees out to dry in such a manner.

One question I have been trying to get answered and not even the Commissioners office has an answer:
What percentage of HOUSEHOLDS use the parks more than once or twice per year? One of the posters at the public hearings shows a population of 816,294. The Tax Assessor’s office said there are approximately 270,000 residential tax parcels in the county. The Commissioners had a poster at the public hearing which showed “parks participation” of 1,769,078 last year. A child who went to the pool every day for 3 months would be counted as 90 participations. That is not what I want to know. I suspect that probably only about 5% of households actually use the parks for more than an occasional picnic in the Spring. That means that 95% of the households are paying for a “champagne budget” park system (the best in the nation!) for the benefit of 5% of the residents.

The County just leased almost 30 tennis courts near Stone Mtn. for $1 per year. We will probably pay ten or more employees to operate and maintain them. That is the genuine expense of such projects–the ongoing costs. The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) members will benefit more than other members of the Community. They lobby for cities and counties to furnish tennis courts for the benefit of their members. The sign on the City of Lilburn tennis courts indicates that ALTA has permanent exclusive use for several hours per week. Why doesn’t ALTA build their own courts? There are local soccer associations that have built their own fields.

Another unanswerable question I asked:
If two houses across the street from each other are provided the same services by the county, why are they proposing to charge one of the houses a 5% penalty on the millage rate increase simply because it is inside a city limits and the house across the street is in unincorporated Gwinnett? Both houses currently have the same millage rate.

legaldriver May 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Several good rants about the tax-and-spend Republican Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, unfortunately, individual rants don’t change squat! What’s needed is an ORGANIZATION(S) WITH STANDING to DEVISE and PURSUE a plan that will save/invigorate the Republican brand in Gwinnett County. It is this poster’s opinion that the following 5 events need to occur (not necessarily in this order) ASAP:

1. Immediately initiate action to RECALL Charles Bannister, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

2. Set in motion whatever steps are necessary to immediately DISMISS Jock Connell, Gwinnett County Manager. If Connell was shrewd enough to outsmart the Board of Commissioners when negotiating his employment contract, pay him off but get rid of him before he costs Gwinnett taxpayers any more money than he already has.

3. Current Gwinnett Commissioner Bert Nasuti, who is the recognized promoter behind building a white elephant Gwinnett Braves Stadium; raiding the County’s reserve fund; and indebting Gwinnett property owners to do so during an economic downturn; needs to VOLUNTARILY RESIGN. Gwinnett voters can decide the fate of the remaining incumbent Commissioners at upcoming elections.

4. Current Gwinnett Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s upcoming recommendations should be selectively incorporated into a master Board of Commissioners redo of the County’s 2009 budget that eliminates any local property tax increases. The past Beaudreau game plan seems to be go along with virtually everything that comes in front of the Board until taxpayer opposition surfaces. Then play populist Commissioner and try to come out smelling like a rose. Accordingly, he shouldn’t be awarded any brownie-points for holding the line on the County budget AFTER the fact.

5. The Gwinnett Public School System’s annual budget is $2+ Billion; the County’s proposed annual budget is $1.7+ Billion; the two budget combined are close to $4 Billion per year in 2009! The County needs to take the lead and explore combining common activities and eliminating duplicative personnel/services. Additionally, the County needs to seriously look at subcontracting a multitude of presently performed in-house services (primarily to control future county employee pension liability). Also selling various facilities (such as the Gwinnett Stadium and the Gwinnett Arena); and reneging on certain bond debt service payments (a tripleA bond rating isn’t worth zilch when the County isn’t — or shouldn’t be — issuing any more bonds. There’s a host of other ways for the County to raise money IF and when needed.

John Cook May 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

The slogan for the signs and chant at the protest should be “Vote Now! Vote NO!”

To table the vote is no decision.

YourFutureLeader May 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

@John Cook,

I think your 5% projection of those who use the parks in Gwinnett is a little low. While I cannot speak for all Gwinnett parks I can speak specifically for a few (Collins Hill, Rhodes Jordan) which are full every day with people of numerous backgrounds, and ethnicities doing a number of activities from basketball, football, frisbee, baseball, walking, soccer, or skateboarding. And this isnt just on the weekends or during the summer either, every day (of good weather) those parks have people in them and usually with not a whole lot of room to spare either.

John Cook May 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm

FutureLeader,
Why doesn’t the County have statistical information available to justify such expenditures, and why isn’t it available to the public? Give us the budget so we can look at it.

Managers in businesses across the County keep statistics for their departments to justify their existence and their budgets. We are told to just trust the County because we don’t have the facts. If we don’t understand and don’t have the facts, that is not OUR fault. It is the County’s fault for not being open and transparent. Telling us we don’t understand is not acceptable. Video all of the work sessions and put them on the website so we have the information.

While some parks may be “full every day,” it seems to be the same few people using the parks. It has been a challenge for me to find people in my neighborhood who use the parks other than sporadically.

Please find a verifiable number if you believe I am wrong. “A little low” is vague. My guess is as good as yours or another in the absence of statistics.

Why do we “need” to pay a champagne budget during austere times? Is it just so we will be able to put on the County web site, “Named #1 Park System in the Nation” and “Recipient of the 2008 Gold Medal Award by National Recreation and Park Association?”

debbie0040 May 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Both Karen Handel and John Oxendine will be speaking Monday night at the Gwinnett Tax Protest. Other gubernatorial candidates are invited.

Chairman Bannister and Mike Beaudrieu both accepted the invitation to speak.

We will have Mayor Williams of Suwanee, Mayor Wilbanks of Dacula, Mayor Pirkle of Sugar Hill speaking. Any Gwinnett Mayor is invited to speak as well.

Bill Simon May 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I hope John Cook and LegalDriver will allow Charlie to present his side of the story before dropping a noose over a tree limb. :-)

John Cook May 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Bill,
I went to two informational meetings this week at GJAC expecting to hear from Chairman Bannister and also have the opportunity to have our questions answered, as the County website indicated would be done. He neither presented his side nor answered questions. Instead, a staff member told us if we had questions we should seek out a County employee to ask questions. I asked questions, the lady looked on her talking points sheets and said she didn’t have the answer. I felt sorry for the County employees–they were left hung out to dry by the Commissioners. At the end Chairman Bannister stood at the podium and stated that the Commissioners would not answer questions.

I called the Chairman’s office and asked questions today. Debbie said someone would call me back with answers. I hope I will hear from them next week, because they never called back today.

I really would like to hear his side and get answers to the issues. If the answers are complex, let’s put them on the web site so people who are interested can have opportunity to study it until we do understand.

Truthteller May 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Bill Simon, pray tell what other “side of the story” is there?

Bad planning and bad management by Charles Bannister has now led to his proposed 25% tax increase to bail himself out. He told the AJC today that he would have passed it if there had not been a total rejection by the taxpayers.

Bill Simon you continue to be an apologist for losers and tax increasers.

You, sir, retain the stamp of hypocrite on your unnaturally large forehead.

debbie0040 May 30, 2009 at 5:33 am

I think Bill is just trying to be objective and look at both sides since he does not live in Gwinnett. There is nothing wrong with trying to get the entire story..

legaldriver May 30, 2009 at 8:15 am

Bill Simon: Truthteller pegged you perfectly in the 3rd paragraph of his 05/29 post.

Debbie0040: You posited that “[t]here is nothing wrong with trying to get the entire story.” A true generic statement. However, are you implying that it’s a taxpayer’s responsibily to worm public information out of politicians as to how they’re spending OUR money?

Chris May 30, 2009 at 8:24 am

This thread just took a fascinating turn.

Bill Simon is the voice of reason. Debbie and I are the moderates, and there is an even angrier faction to our right. What was it Yamamoto said? “I’ve awoken a sleeping dragon and filled it with terrible resolve”.

*wonders if the recall may proceed anyway*

Doug Deal May 30, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Chris,

I wish the recall luck. When I lived in Gwinnett, the county commission was a major reason why I temporarily joined the Libertarian party.

Bill Simon May 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm

TT/LegalDriver,

The post above my post stated that Charlie Bannister would be speaking at the event on Monday night. All I did was point out the simple concept of why the eff don’t you stupid effers WAIT and SEE what he has to say? rather than blog incessantly in a whiny-ass effed manner?

You people are like little children. In fact, you are WORSE than children. But, you, TT, are probably raising your kids to be just as much whiny little sh*ts as you are. Good “father figure” you are.

Bill Simon May 30, 2009 at 11:10 pm

John Cook,

I don’t know the answers to your questions. All I said, in a very comedic way, was to wait until Bannister spelled-out his reasons before they “hung a noose over a limb.”

I would wait and see if Bannister can formulate an answer for the Monday night presentation.

Bill Simon May 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm

By the way…in case none of you have quite figured out, the newspaper reporters like Camie Young and whoever is on the AJC beat, don’t exactly understand a lot of times about what they are writing about.

Thus the issue with what people like TT have stuck in their mind about the proposed tax increase being a “25% increase in property taxes.” That is an incomplete and inaccurate statement.

Your property bill in Gwinnett is comprised of a county tax bill AND a school tax bill (which is usually the largest portion of the total tax bill unless you are a senior citizen).

The “25% increase” is on the county portion of the total tax bill for the county services provided. According to my research, a $200,000 house is paying approximately $2.00 per day for county services.

Increase this by 25%, and you get $0.50 more per day. Over 365 days, that amounts to a true increase of $182.50 for that $200K house.

If you want to take pitchforks somewhere, take them to the Gwinnett Daily Post offices and toss a pitchfork on the editor’s desk for allowing Camie Young’s story to run WITHOUT being written accurately.

debbie0040 May 31, 2009 at 10:04 am

“Debbie0040: You posited that “[t]here is nothing wrong with trying to get the entire story.” A true generic statement. However, are you implying that it’s a taxpayer’s responsibily to worm public information out of politicians as to how they’re spending OUR money?’

I absolutely DO NOT. The commission has a responsibility to be open and transparent and give a detailed budget not just a summary. For instance , the Greenways Acquisition/Development item in the budget should have detailed explanation of why the commission wants to spend 9 million dollars more than they did in previous years. We should not be buying more land if that is what that item is. Another item is Rhodes Jordan Park 156,450 was spent in prior years but this year it is listed as 6 ,003,230 Where is the money going to? A more detailed budget should be available online.

When I made that statement, I was referring to the attack on Bill Simon and the fact he does not live in Gwinnett so he is trying to understand both sides of the issue. I can assure you that if Bill lived over in Gwinnett, he would be as upset as the rest of us about the proposed milleage rate increase. In fact, he would be supplying the pitchforks and torches :)

I do have hope that a large turnout Monday will have an impact on the county commissioners and on Chairman Bannister in regard to the milleage increase. I would love to see Bannister pledge to use some of Beaudrieu’s recommedations and cut out excess, no land purchases, no expansion of public safety in areas already served by cities, cut out the 8.25% non-public safety Gwinnett county employee pay raise, and to keep any milleage rate increase under 1% .

debbie0040 May 31, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Interesting article in todays Gwinnett Post

http://gwinnettdailypost.com/main.asp?SectionID=11&SubSectionID=92&ArticleID=60406&TM=44587.87

County needs a little transparency

Dave Williams
Suwanee

In his press conference Thursday, Chairman Charles Bannister issued a call to our county’s civic and business leaders to help solve the county’s financial crisis. I trust that his invitation for others to assist the county is sincere. He can demonstrate that by opening the county’s books and releasing the 2009 line item budget. Only then can taxpayers learn what their taxes are funding and the value of the services provided.

One week ago, I wrote a column opposing the property tax increase that our commissioners planned to impose on taxpayers. Despite our efforts, we had only primitive knowledge of how those taxes were to be spent, since the commission refused to share the line items in the 2009 budget.

But as a result of the county’s compliance with one of the several open records requests filed by Gwinnett cities, we have learned a few nuggets: For starters, the 2009 budget, adopted March 3, includes an 8.25 percent pay hike for county employees – 4 percent for public safety. Another revelation: the 2009 budget shows the county socking away not $43 million into reserve, as once thought, but $81 million.

The tax hike would have passed just fine, thank you, except for one small variable: the taxpayers who provide the revenue in the first place. They educated themselves and took a strong stand. The fact that this tax hike is likely to be reconsidered is a testament to the power of our collective voice when we participate in our community.

All county taxpayers should call for Gwinnett to truly open its books and share its intentions on the 2009 budget, especially as changes are now being made. Urge our leadership to listen to the citizens. But most of all, follow through on this rare opportunity to genuinely engage the constituents who took a stand against higher taxes and the growth of county government. After all, government belongs to the people, not the elected officials and staff.

Bill Simon May 31, 2009 at 7:11 pm

8.25% for county employees, and only 4% for public safety?

Strange patterns develop during recessions in the criminal industry: crime rates tend to increase.

The Commission might find itself on stronger ground for a budget increase if they were to flip those increases around between county employees and public safety employees.

legaldriver May 31, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Bill Simon:

As a on-Gwinnett resident, you don’t know your rectum from an aperture in the ground about Gwinnett County resident attitudes, politics or politicians. And here’s why your “whiny ass” comments are totally irrelevant:

Simon says:
“—why the eff don’t you stupid effers WAIT and SEE what he [Bannister] has to say? rather than blog incessantly in a whiny-ass effed manner?”

Because we ALREADY KNOW that Bannister doesn’t mean anything he says about budgets and property taxes. Ever since he assumed the Chairman position, Bannister has talked-the-talk about the need for Gwinnett County to reduce spending — but he has NEVER followed through! Instead Bannister repeatedly upped the County budget on the back of then-continuing housing growth and higher property valuations. But property growth and higher property valuations came to a screeching halt and now the County needs more new money to fund Bannister’s 2009 budget. And your ‘whiny-ass’ recommendation is we should “WAIT and SEE” and overnight, maybe — just maybe — Bannister will change his habitual spending pattern and poof — there will be no need for a property tax increase.

Simon says:
“According to [his] research,” the owner of a $200,000 Gwinnett house will only pay an additional “$182.50 over 365 days” in County property taxes to fund the Bannister budget.

What you obviously can’t or don’t get is that a majority of Gwinnett property owners — commercial as well as residential — are OPPOSED to ANY increase in property taxes during the current economic downturn.

And in that you mentioned children, your “whiny-ass” comments bring to mind a jury member in the sentencing phase who wants to give the benefit of a doubt to a criminal that admitted to killing his parents because the criminal now is claiming to be an orphan.

Bill Simon May 31, 2009 at 9:07 pm

LegalDriver,

ONE thing I know more than you about is how to be honest and unafraid of attaching my name to my opinions. And that ain’t a matter of where one’s rear-end is living, Richard-Cranium.

legaldriver June 1, 2009 at 9:40 am

Bill Simon:

Your above post is both gratifying and revealing. Gratifying in that you have cleaned up your language. Revealing in that as you apparently can’t compete on the merits of a local issue, you have reverted to ad hominem attacks. The latter shift makes sense in that it better fits with your ‘expertise.’

Bill Simon June 1, 2009 at 10:41 am

LegalDriver,

I usually charge people for their gratuitous enjoyment of everything I write. Consider yourself privileged to be “gratified” on a fee-less basis. :-)

Truthteller June 2, 2009 at 12:15 am

Bill Simon thats as lame as it gets, forehead.

You spin yourself into a frenzy defending your tax raiser buddies, then humiliate yourself with your transparent desperation to have opinions on things you obviously dont understand. When challenged you simply go cold shower limp and drivel something about being proud you at least sign your name and end with a smiley. Gutless moron.

You defend Republicans who act liberal and propose tax increases with your drivel about Lets Wait and Not Rush To Judgment. It really seems pretty simple, you’re a conservative fake.

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