The morning hearing was attended by about half a dozen people. More showed for the evening hearing and Pittman begain by presenting the need for the increase.
“The advertisement in the paper is a bit misleading,” Pittman said. “It was advertised as a 25 percent increase and truthfully that’s not the case...at the end of the day it comes down to about a six percent increase.”
Pittman used graphics in the presentation.
“The county portion...is increasing 1.47 mills, the school tax is going to remain the same so there will be no change there,” Pittman said. “Currently...15.5 mills goes to the school, .15 mills goes to the state and the 5.8 ills is what the county collects to provide services for fire, sheriff, 911, senior center, transit, garbage collection, roads maintenance, the judicial system...
“We are continue to lose property values on an annual basis,” Pittman said. “Year after year our tax digest value has continued to decrease which in turn did our revenue. Since 2007...we’ve lost $1.5 million in tax revenue from our property values..”
Pittman also pointed a declining trend in sales tax revenues.
Pittman said that the state recommends a government keep a reserve of 90-120 days of operating funds but the county does not have the funds.
“We have to be fiscally responsibility,” Pittman said.
“Quality health care is very important to our community,” Pittman said. “It’s very important ...as far as economic growth and development if we’re trying to attract industry. It’s important to our community members. If I had...an emergency I wouldn’t want to depend on an ambulance to come from 25 miles away and then take me back 25 miles. So that’s something to think about when thinking about the hospital. We do have a longtime solution that we’re working towards. We can’t announce that at this time because we have confidentiality wavers...we want to ensure that we have quality health care.”
Pittman showed surrounding counties and the average spent per resident from county budget dollars.
“We have 40,000 in our community roughly as an estimate,” Pittman said. “We spend $397 per resident in Murray County. Whereas Pickens County spends $700 per resident to provide services in the community. Gilmer County spends $570 and Fannin $630. So we truly work hard to make those dollars stretch to provide those services. It reflected in these numbers.”
Pittman said there only four counties in the state of Georgia with lower unincorporate millage rates.
“Two of those, Walker and Union, are also raising their millage rate this year,” Pittman said.
“We are not alone in facing these difficult times,” Pittman said as she referred to a chart listing other county governments who had increased millage rates.
“I know that if we pick up the phone, and the people in the community pick up the phone, and call and reach out for service, whether that be the road department, the sheriff’s office or the fire department, we want to ensure that those responders are capable and highly trained and that they have the equipment necessary in order to do that job,” Pittman said. “We want to ensure that we have quality healthcare being offered in our community. Because if we do not have quality healthcare we are still by state law to cover health care of an indigent patient that seeks health care in other counties. So we could still find ourselves having to pay for health care even if we didn’t have a hospital.”
John Kimball asked Pittman about a payment made to Murray Medical Medical Center this year.
“Is there bonding...outstanding that the county has to pay if the hospital is bankrupt?”
Pittman answered yes. “The balance is roughly $5.6 million,” Pittman said. “That’s on the particular bonds that were taken out to do the renovations back in 2007.
There is also bonds issued through Hamilton Medical Center for about the same amount that must be paid.
“If you could look at the opportunities at closing the hospital through bankruptcy and then seeing how muuch money that it would take to pay off the bonds and then use the indigent care money to move to the various hospitals,” Kimball said.
Pittman said the increase was hopefully not a longterm solution.
Carleton McDaniel mentioned the unemployment rate for Murray County at ten percent and said several businesses have closed in Murray County and a tax increase could affect anybody else thinking about coming to Murray County.
“I think the whole budget needs to be looked at ,” McDaniel said. “Cuts made where they can be made....if we got people that’s not performing we got to cut them out.”