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Series of public hearings on proposed county tax increase gets underway Tuesday morning

Grady County taxpayers will have their first chance to comment on the county’s proposed 3 mill tax increase at a public hearing to be held next Tuesday, Aug. 7 beginning at 9 a.m.
The hearing, to be held in conjunction with the Grady County Commission’s regular board meeting, will be conducted in the main courtroom of the courthouse to accommodate the large number of taxpayers county officials predict may attend.
Under the current proposed budget, county expenses are up $791,530 over the current year, which could be covered by an increase of 1.5 mills, however the county commission set the tentative millage rate at 16.990 mills, up from 13.990 in 2017.
Since 2013, the Grady County Commission has increased taxes by $1,186,386 and if the proposed three mill tax increase stands it will bump up tax collections by $1,765,856 or $2,952,242 over the last six years.
For citizens who cannot attend next Tuesday morning’s hearing, a second hearing will be held that night, beginning at 6 p.m. A third and final hearing will be held Tuesday, Aug. 14 beginning at 6 p.m.
Following the last hearing on Aug. 14, the board will vote to set the millage rate and give final adoption to its 2019 operating budget.
Grady County commissions met Monday night to further discuss the budget, but little in the way of decisions was made.
One area where the board is looking to make cuts is in uniform expense for county workers.
According to Chairman Ray Prince, former administrator Carlos Tobar approved the payment of all uniform costs for county employees which totaled $66,000 annually in additional expense.
“It is being abused and Carlos did this on his own when it should have come before this board for a vote,” Chairman Prince said Monday night.
Donna Johnson, accounting manager for the Grady County commission, said that the county is paying for jackets and jeans rather than uniform pants and shirts.
“Three dollars a week doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up and it was not legally voted on. This was above his pay scale or at least I feel like it is,” Chairman Prince said.
Commissioner Keith Moye asked Johnson if she had contacted Chief Appraiser Susan Bennett about delaying $76,000 in professional services that had been requested in the Board of Tax Assessors’ budget. According to Johnson, Bennett has not responded to her email or phone message. “I may need to have a face-to-face with her,” the accounting manager said.
The board is also considering leasing vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office rather than purchasing them. Based on the lower projected cost to lease vehicles, the board is also considering leasing vehicles for the Extension Service agent as well as other departments in the county.
However, Commissioner LaFaye Copeland remains cautious about the leasing program. “I hope this does not come back to bite us in the butt. Something about it doesn’t seem right. Have we, as a board, really checked into it?” Copeland asked.
Board Chairman Prince said a number of other governments are leasing their fleet and he noted that the county could end the program at any time.
Commissioner Copeland also noted that there are other companies besides Enterprise that offer the service, but that the county had not solicited proposals from any other firms.
Commissioners had previously decided to solicit proposals from vendors interested in solid waste collection and disposal for the county, but that does not appear to be happening. The county staff has not advertised a RFP and County Clerk Carrie Croy and Chairman Prince said Monday night that privatizing the service would cost almost three times as much as what the county currently spends.
Vice Chairman T.D. David questioned the estimates and reminded them that county residents would be sharing in the cost by paying for the residential pick-up. “I don’t see that happening,” Prince said.
Under the current budget proposal, $505,028 is budgeted for solid waste, a reduction of $84,250 from 2018.
Commissioner Moye questioned the budgeted salaries for the road department and while discussing it Johnson found some miscalculations in the proposed budget that she said would be adjusted.
Chairman Prince said that once all the dirt that needs to be hauled for the widening of Old 179 North is complete then the overtime in the road department and the part-time workers can be eliminated. “That all will come to an end very shortly,” Chairman Prince said.
With regards to expenses at Tired Creek Lake, Chairman Prince said it has reached a point “if it doesn’t have to be done we’ve got to cut it off.” He added, “There are certain things we’ve got to do, but other than that it’s got to come to a stop now.”

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