Post authored by Elizabeth Christian Allen, a Newton County resident and a taxpayer concerned about a proposed property tax increase. If you live in Newton County and would like to reach out to the Board of Commissioners, you can call Chairman Keith Ellis at 770-401-6801, Commissioner Levie Maddox at 770-595-3179, Commissioner Nancy Shultz at 678-625-1202, and Commissioner Lanier Sims at 770-787-7876.
At this point everyone pretty much knows what to expect of Washington D.C. politicians, polarize an issue, write legislation that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages long and present it within hours of pushing it to a vote with no way possible of actually reading what is in it and then passing it. Their rationale is they must “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Also, it has become the norm in D.C. to function without a budget for years and pass continuing resolutions in order to continue to spend the taxpayer’s money.
While we expect this type of behavior by the big government politicians in D.C., we do not typically expect this type of behavior by our local officials. It appears however, the majority of the Newton County BOC has decided to take a page out of Nancy Pelosi’s playbook and attempt this locally! I know for some (including myself), local politics can be very boring but it is very necessary and can definitely affect your wallet, so bare with me and definitely hang in there to the end of this post as you will find a very ironic piece of information regarding one of our BOC members.
The latest proposed budget, which we the people have yet been able to obtain an actual copy of, as it has “not been ready” at each attempt to obtain, proposes to raise the Millage rate from 10.91 to 11.59 according to a local newspaper article. The only budget available to the people so far for review was published in a local paper and was in a little box at the bottom of the page. When you fit $45,952, 201 in a little box at the bottom of a page in a newspaper, you don’t get many details.
Within the local BOC, so far there is only one BOC member, John Douglas, that understands raising taxes is not the solution and also understands decreasing government to a small efficient one is the solution. According to BOC Douglas at a recent local GOP meeting, from January to June the BOC worked on a proposed budget that resulted in what appeared to be 100+ pages of work product in a binder he was holding. Will that budget be used? Apparently not! The budget that is not available for review is the budget that will be up for vote, the one that has yet to be written. I guess they will bring it to the BOC meeting (July 16, 2013 at 6:30pm at the Old Court House on the Square) and attempt to pass it, to find out what’s in it, unless the taxpayers in Newton County show up and voice our opposition to this fiscal insanity by our Board of Commissioners.
Since the BOC has been unable to find ways to cut government, we the people will begin to look at department by department, and put forth ideas to our BOC of ways to make up their “shortfall,” without raising taxes and essentially will decrease the budget and hopefully make our local government smaller and more efficient.
Proposed Decrease #1 (with more to come in the near future):
No more good old boys, back room deals – OPEN up Contracts to bids and let the free market do its job! Competition can be very good for the taxpayer’s money. For example, the recycling contract here in Newton County has been exclusive to the same company since 2001, despite attempts by two BOC members to open up bids, Commissioners Lanier Sims and Nancy Schulz. As quoted in a local newspaper, “Sims said he didn’t think it was fair for other contractors to be denied the option to bid for the contract, while Schulz said it seems prudent to bid out a contract that the county annually loses money on.” In this same 2011 article, it was noted, “Newton County’s recycling centers are expected to cost the county $820,912 this year.” The same article points out that “only part of the deficit is caused by the contract with Hilliard Services, which will be $412,331 per year” (2011) and yet this contract was renewed without any bids. According to one version of what the BOC may end up voting on for the budget, that was published in a local newspaper, in the approved FY2013 budget the amount for the “NC Solid Waste Recycling” was $221,378 and in one proposed FY2014 budget the amount rose to $750,000 (variance of $528,622 of taxpayer money), “required by GEFA Loan.” The numbers are all over the place and without an actual budget it makes it difficult to actually crunch the numbers, but it appears the recycling business costs the taxpayers a lot of money and yet our BOC continues to renew the contract without even entertaining bids from other companies! Our county should have learned that not opening up bids and renewing contracts year after year could be quite embarrassing for the BOC.
A Proposed Solution:
Open up all county contracts to bids, as above is only one example of one contract that has been renewed for over a decade without any competition. This will help keep the costs of doing business competitive and in the long run should save taxpayers money. Another solution is finding ways to make sure only Newton County residents utilize the recycling centers, which BOC Douglas stated ideas to achieve this goal were being looked at. In Morgan County cameras were installed at their facilities and if there is a car tag that is not from that county, a ticket is sent to the person for utilizing their facilities. Big brother – yes, but apparently the use of their facilities by out of county residents is down. It is also noted that signs are posted at their facilities warning of the consequences.
Focus on BOC Members – Round 1:
BOC 5 – Levie Maddox
As someone who lives within this district in Newton County, I decided since my BOC member wants to raise our taxes, why not look into his tax history and make sure he was a responsible taxpayer as well. Boy was I surprised at what I found!
According to the Newton County Tax Commissioner’s website, BOC Maddox rarely pays his County taxes on time. Taxes in Newton County are “due by October 20 and December 20. If taxes are not paid on the property, it may be levied upon and ultimately sold.” In 2004, BOC Maddox paid both installments on 12/11/2004, which would only make his October installment late. However, in 2005 he did not pay either installment until 3/16/2006 & 3/17/2006. In 2006, he paid one payment on 12/17/2006 and then the Tax Commissioner did not receive another payment again for 2006 until 5/30/2007. This behavior continued throughout the years until present date with his 2012 taxes being paid on 12/9/2012 and 2/3/2013.
At this point I got to thinking about city taxes and I went to the city of Porterdale’s website but unfortunately you can’t see their taxes online like you can the county’s unless you have an account with them. Since tax records are public, I decided to send an email to their local government office and see if I could request the tax records online or how to obtain these records for any past due property taxes. Below is what I received…(click to enlarge)
Apparently, BOC Maddox feels that it is okay to raise our taxes and yet he either it appears he pays his late or not at all! Apparently he has been watching the politicians in D.C. too closely and is behaving as if he is one of them.
Just remember this is only ROUND 1 – more to come soon, with ways to eliminate local government waste and solutions from the people, to the budget “shortfall,” as well as examining all of the BOC more closely. Sometimes sunshine truly is the best disinfectant!