Houston boards approve millage increases

WARNER ROBINS — Two Houston County boards Wednesday approved 1.87 mills in increases for the fiscal year 2010.

The Houston County Commission, following its third public hearing, approved a millage rate of 10.45, up 1 mill over last year’s rate. The increase included a half-mill increase voted for by residents in November to pay for an early warning weather alert system. The commission’s vote was 3-1, with commissioner Jay Walker voting against the increase.

The Houston County Board of Education also approved a new millage rate of 13.34 mills for fiscal year 2010, a .87-mill increase over last year, following its third public hearing on the matter. The vote was 6-1, with board member Griff Clements voting no.

“I can’t see a tax increase at this time,” Clements said.

A mill is roughly $1 for every $1,000 taxable value of a home. The new combined rates mean a person owning a home worth $100,000 would pay about $80 more in property taxes per year.

At the board of education meeting, resident Kathy Brown said she felt the board should not have reduced its local supplement to teachers by $1,000 while the school system recently purchased new iPhones for some of the central office staff.

“This is about my money and my children’s education,” Brown said. “All I’m asking is that we give an equivalent education to all the children and close the achievement gap.”

But Leon Tompkins, a retired educator, said he didn’t mind paying taxes for the school system. “Other counties pay more,” he said. “Check and compare.”

County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders said Wednesday afternoon that the board met with department heads in the county to figure out where money could be cut from the budget.

“We cut it down to the bare bones to operate the county,” he said. “We boiled it down as far as it could go. Having done that, it brought us down to the projected budget.

“Costs go up for the county just how it goes up for us.”

Resident Walton Wood, who has voiced his concerns at all the county commission’s public hearings, said residents have become the fallback for governments when they see potential shortfalls. He would like other alternatives sought. “The money is not coming in (for the county) and everybody expects Joe Q. Public to break his wallet out of his back pocket ... and it should stop,” Wood said.

Staff writer Jake Jacobs contributed to this report. To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 923-6199, extension 235.