March, 2015

                                           TRUTH BE TOLD:  WHAT TAX INCREASE?

       Much has been said in past weeks, regarding this group's fight to obtain the school tax  exemption for senior homeowners.

The opposition's overused diatribe is that we seniors should pay "our fair share."  We've been paying "our fair share" for fifty, sixty, or more years.

     What about local residents who have four or more kids in school who pay no property tax?  Are they paying "their fair share?"  What about the illegal aliens who get everything for free?  They have never paid "their fair share."

     According to public tax records, there is more than 2.3 million dollars owed the County in back taxes.  Are those individuals, businessmen, and corporations

paying "their fair share?"  Many of these individuals and businesses owe property taxes going back six or more years.  And until February 23, one school board member had not paid "their fair share."

     Why is this allowed?

There are some businesses in this County who owe not only thousands of dollars in back property taxes, but also thousands of dollars in unpaid sales tax, of which the County would receive a percentage.  Yet another source of revenue to remain outstanding.  No wonder our elected officials refuse to grant exemptions to seniors.

     It seems those opponents who yell the loudest are the ones who have the most to lose. (or hide)  To even offer the exemption would mean they might actually have to PAY those back taxes.

     There are great variances in the assessment of properties in this County, too.  One one side of the street, property is assessed at $5K per acre, while the other side of the street is assessed at $15K per acre.

     There is also considerable disparity in the salaries of "certain" County employees.
     There is an old saying, "People who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones."  The opposition appear to live in glass houses.

     The (actual ) taxpayers in this County need to WAKE UP?  You have been lied to, and deftly lured into complacency and compliancy.  Don't you think it's time  you did something about it?

Are the uncollected back taxes the reason the commissioners increased the property tax millage rate on the ones who DO pay "their fair share?"  Is it the reason our elected officials refuse to grant exemption to seniors?  Is it why the County commissioners refuse to let an outside audit of the Count's finances, as directed by the Grand Jury?

     The opposition's same old broken record continues its scratchy sing-song:  If the seniors are exempt from paying school taxes, the education system will suffer.  Wrong!  Alternative measures are set in place to provide for the lost revenue.  The uncollected 2.3 million would more than fill the gap.

     When seniors were granted exemption in Gilmer County, elected officials reported no discernible difference in the quality of education.  The measure was voted on and passed in a time when the economy was at its worst.  And Pickens County has a LARGER population than Gilmer County.  Gilmer County and its education system prospers without burdening the elderly with unnecessary taxation, and so can Pickens County.

     Recently, the County reported that it was one million dollars in the black, due in part to the millage rate increase.  With the uncollected 2.3 million in back taxes, the one million obtained from the augmented millage rate, that makes a total of 3.3 million dollars to help fill the education coffers.

     Property owners should not be the only ones to bear the burden of responsibility for the welfare of the education system.  Our elected officials need to seek additional sources of revenue, along with collecting what is owed the County.  How about bonds, or a local option sales tax, one in which EVERYONE who shopped in the County would help pay for education.

     Furthermore, our elected officials need to step up to the plate and submit a ratified exemption plan to Rick Jasperse, so that he can present it to the Georgia Congress for approval, and get it on the ballot for the next election.  The Pickens County website could then proudly advertise the fact that seniors are exempt, instead of  the unadvertised shameful truth it actually is.

     Pickens County offers natural beauty and breathtaking views, but when seniors are burdened with elevated taxes they struggle to pay, those picturesque views no longer delight the aesthetic senses.

     Pickens Count is not "senior friendly."  Business owners and the senior population are passing the word along not to move here.  If you think that's not happening, then you are unaware of what's going on.  Or, maybe you are, and are just ignoring it all, hoping, this too, shall pass.

     If business in Pickens County suffers, don't blame us.  Blame the Pickens County elected officials.  They set the standards.  We are merely publicizing them.

     EVERYTHING about a house should be disclosed to a prospective home buyer:  Termite infestation, a structural defect, broken or leaky pipes...AND the fact that senior homeowners DO NOT receive discounts (unless impoverished) and/or exemptions on their property tax.

     Fasten your seat belts, everybody.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.