Mayor Ordiales: Not a tax increase, an increase in city revenue

News, Politics
Mayor Liz Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held the first of three mandatory public hearings this morning in order to lawfully reject a property tax rollback rate of 2.170 mills. A second hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Council members Anne Mitchell, Kris Berrong, Amy Barrett, and Nancy Noblet attended the hearing. Councilwoman Patsy Owens is expected to attend the afternoon forum.

While public turn-out was extremely scarce, the two citizens in attendance objected to the rollback denial. Both residents noted the  BRMEMC Franchise Fee which was adopted by the city of Hiawassee earlier this year, as a reason why they oppose what will result in a tax increase for local property owners. Concern for those on fixed incomes was cited, as well as the fact that Hiawassee would be the only entity in Towns County to reject a lower rollback rate.

Mayor Ordiales stood solid ground in her push for maintaining the current rate of 2.258 mills, stating that the cost of city operations warrant rejection of the rollback. Ordiales noted $4.5 million in debt that the city “inheritited” from past administrations, in which $390,000 is due in annual repayment, and added that there has been no rate increase to water or sewer charges in five years. The cost of utilities that the city requires, the funding of the police department, and general expenses were mentioned, in addition to three-percent cost of living raise increases for city staff. Maintaining the current tax rate will draw approximately $7,000 in additional revenue. Ordiales stated that the 52 city property owners which had flown under the tax radar increased the digest by $5.3 million in assessed value.

“It’s not a tax increase,” Mayor Ordiales claimed, “It’s an increase of revenue to the city.”

Council members Amy Barrett, Nancy Noblet, and Kris Berrong voiced that they have received public objection to the rollback rejection, and challenged Ordiales’ position. Barrett and Noblet suggested other ways of raising the city’s revenue, such as requiring a fee for non-residents to partake in newly-constructed Mayors’ Park.

Councilwoman Anne Mitchell favored the mayor’s proposal, stating, “2.258 is a painless way to increase a little bit.”

“This is not a tax increase. We’re leaving it the same, and clearly no one has a problem with it or else there would be 500 people here, jumping up and down,” Ordiales reasoned.

Due to the fact that property value assestments have risen, maintaining the current rate of 2.258 mills will result in higher property taxes for Hiawassee property owners, a point that was raised by those questioning Ordiales’s proposal. When a citizen reminded that the rejection of the rollback rate must be advertised, per law, as a property tax increase due to the fact that it amounts to such, Ordiales replied, “It’s a terrible law. It was written in 1980.”

If the millage rollback is indeed rejected by Hiawassee City Council, it will mark the first year in approximately two decades that it has been denied.

The final public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m. The millage rate will be set at 6:30 p.m.

FYN will report on today’s second hearing once it has taken place.

A previous article on the Hiawassee millage rate is available.

 

 

Hiawassee on track to reject rollback tax rate, maintain current millage

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Despite higher property assessments, Hiawassee seems to be on track to reject a 2018 rollback millage of 2.170, in favor of retaining the current rate of 2.258.

Hiawassee City Council held a called-meeting on the evening of Aug. 16, to discuss the matter.

In compliance with state law, three public hearings are scheduled to take place; two on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and a third at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Hiawassee City Hall.

CORRECTION: The dates have been changed to Tuesday, Sept. 4, with one held at 10 am, and a second at 2 pm.

The third meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6 pm, with the tax rate set at 6:30 pm.

According to presented calculations, retaining the current 2.258 rate would supply the city of Hiawassee with an additional $7,080 in revenue. While the amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s $4.1 million budget, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained to council members at Thursday’s meeting that the increased revenue could, for example, be applied to the continuing construction taking place at Mayors’ Park.

hiawassee taxes

Click to enlarge

In addition, Ordiales reminded the council of the 52 parcel owners who had previously slipped below the city’s radar, and have since been billed for delinquent property taxes.

Councilwoman Amy Barrett was the most vocal of the elected officials on Aug. 16, however, raising a valid point that should the current millage rate remain fixed, taxes will, in fact, increase due to heightened property values.

Barrett firmly stated a desire to delay decision until taxpayers are afforded an ample opportunity to offer input.

Councilwoman Anne Mitchell contributed to the dialogue, claiming that as councilmembers, the duty is to act as policymakers, adding, “(The millage rate) is not the citizens decision to make.”

During the meeting, Mayor Ordiales displayed a PowerPoint chart, comparing the millage of Hiawassee to that of surrounding cities. According to the graphic, only Blairsville was listed as lower, at 1.945 mills. The fact that Blairsville boasts an airport was reasoned for the lesser tax rate.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council (L- R) – Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell

Councilmembers Patsy Owens and Kris Berrong did not offer clear insight into their positions, although Owens chimed in that maintaining the current rate shouldn’t be considered an increase. Councilwoman Nancy Noblet seemingly shared agreement with Barrett’s opposing stance, occasionally nodding in approval as Barrett spoke.

Of note, Towns County Commission and Towns County Board of Education recently announced a decision to accept their millage rollbacks, with both divisions citing increased property values as the logic behind the drop. The departments have scheduled special called-meetings for next week to finalize the matter.

Public turnout was low at the city’s budget meeting in comparison to monthly work sessions, although several in attendance voiced rejection to the rollback, favoring the current tax rate.

An outspoken newcomer, who was publicly noted as such by Barrett and Noblet, announced that he “does this as a living,” and asserted that he felt it would be “absolutely reckless to even think about rolling back that millage rate,” concluding that property values could potentially decrease in the future, leaving the city with a need to raise taxes in years to come.

Barrett and Noblet responded with recollection of the discord which surrounded the Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) franchise “fee” which was repealed late last year, upon opposition from taxpayers, yet readopted by current council once Ordiales replaced it on the agenda, adding bulk to the stance of welcoming a broader range of citizen feedback.

A softer-spoken citizen suggested that accepting the lower rollback rate might be perceived by the public as an attempt to gain “good press” in favor of taking the seven thousand dollar loss. Barrett objected to the notion, adding during the meeting that what might seem like a slight tax hike now has the potential to ultimately expand to a greater increase over time.

In sum, the city of Hiawassee unanomosly agreed to advertise the non-rollback millage of 2.258, and await public opinion at the early September hearings.

Hiawassee City Council will convene for their monthly work session on Aug. 27, at 6 pm, at City Hall. General questions and concerns from the public are traditionally addressed at the meetings.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Mayor’s Proposed Budget heads to Hiawassee City Council

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council is due to vote on the City’s 2018-2019 budget Tuesday, Oct. 2, following a public hearing held Monday, Sept. 24.

Preceding a line-by-line discussion of the proposed budget, Hiawassee City Council adopted the rollback rate of 2.170 mills in a 3-1 vote. Council members Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet favored the rollback, with Councilwoman Anne Mitchell solely opposing the reduced tax.

Patsy Owens

Councilwoman Patsy Owens

Councilwoman Patsy Owens was absent from the meeting, reported by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to be traveling.

Owens, however, along with Mitchell, rejected the property tax rollback earlier this month, favoring what would have amounted to a tax increase for city property owners.

Concerning the budget, generated revenue applied toward the General Fund is expected to amount to $798,830, an increase of slightly over $33,300 from the previous fiscal year. The rise is due in part to the collection of an anticipated $70,000 in franchise fees imposed on Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation, which in turn has been passed along to customers.

General Expenses are expected to total $544,780, leaving the General Fund with a surplus in excess of $254,000.
Income derived from the Hotel-Motel Tax is listed at $85,000, with outgoing expenses to Towns County Chamber of Commerce, the Tax Commissioner, and local tourism payments, setting that particular budget flush.

SPLOST income is null as it it is non-existent.

The Sewer and Water Treatment Funds are expected to break even at $721,650 for Sewer, and $860,345 for Water Treatment.

Income toward the Water Fund is listed at $1,679,000, with expenses totaling $1,154,470. “This fund has a little bit more money so it’s not so bad,” Mayor Ordiales stated.

Funding for Hiawassee Police Department, however, is scant, with slightly over $177,000 anticipated in income, compared to $431,000 in necessary expenses. A citizen in attendance questioned Mayor Ordiales’ figures in relation to the surplus of finances applied to the General Fund. “You don’t want to use up that surplus,” Ordiales retorted, “What if something goes wrong?”

A total of $12,000 is listed for General Education and Training of City staff, a stark increase of $10,000 above the 2017-2018 initial proposal. Additional training for City Council remains fixed at $5,000.

Councilwoman Amy Barrett countered that line items within the budget were “freed up” the previous year, such as cuts to employee benefits, along with the addition of revenue derived from the franchise fee.

Amy Barrett Hiawassee

Councilwoman Amy Barrett

Furthermore, Barrett inquired into the $17,000 applied to City Hall communications, a $7,000 increase from the 2017-2018 initial budget proposal, separate from the mere $3,000 allotted for Hiawassee Police Department’s communication needs.

“We’re not here to argue,” Ordiales interjected, “It is what it is.”

Barrett noted the $9,000 listed to fund election costs, reminding that other than the Brunch Resolution set to appear on November’s ballot, an actual election is not scheduled to take place in 2018. Ordiales replied that it is wise to have a cushion in the event that a special election is necessary, should a council member decide to “quit.”

Hiawassee Council is scheduled to convene at City Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to accept or reject the mayor’s proposed budget.

Meetings are open to the public.

 

 

Hiawassee City Council crushes Mayor’s tax increase, 3-2

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council rejected what would have amounted to a property tax increase for city residents and businesses owners on the evening of Tuesday. Sept. 11, 2018, immediately following the third of three state-mandated public hearings.

proposal to maintain the current millage rate of 2.258, which would result in greater taxation due to heightened property assestments, was set forth by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales on Aug. 16.

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens supported Ordiales’ tax increase, with Mitchell motioning and Owens quickly seconding.

Council members Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet opposed the motion, rejecting the mayor’s incentives.

“I feel it’s crunch time for us instead of (the taxpayers),” Barrett expressed during the hearing.

Numerous citizens in attendance at the hearings, along with Barrett, Berrong, and Noblet, voiced concern for economically challenged residents within the community, stating that the increase could further affect their ability to adequately subsist. Barrett noted instances of known elderly residents on fixed incomes relocating elsewhere due to the BRMEMC franchise tax, an ordinance adopted by the city of Hiawasseee earlier this year, revealing that additional citizens have stated clear intent to vacate as well. Furthermore, Barrett and Noblet claimed that area businesses have vowed to relocate outside of city limits. Berrong previously relayed that he, too, has received ample objection to the advertised rejection of the reduced rollback rate.

Councilwoman Mitchell remained  uncharacteristically muted throughout the hearing, with Owens exclusively shaking her head “no” in obstinance to the concerns raised by the taxpayers in attendance.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Ordiales attempted to reason with citizens and council members, beginning with issues such as the estimated $4.5 million debt accrued, the need to repave roads, and ambition to supply annual three-percent employee raises as the logic behind the rollback rejection. Ordiales stressed the importance of continuing to fund Hiawassee Police Department as a final plea for acceptance. “Where am I going to cut?,” Ordiales asked, immediately prior to a brief recess between the public hearing and the council vote, “I can’t cut my salary anymore.”

Ordiales asserted that the increased 2018 tax digest was the result of $4.5 million in newly-assessed properties, and compared the millage rate of Hiawassee to surrounding municipalities. Out of 15 cities listed, with the exception of Blairsville, Hiawassee remains the lowest. Accepting the rollback rate of 2.170 mills will increase the city’s revenue by $2123, while the current rate of 2.258 mills would have provided slightly over $7000.

Ordiales encouraged the council to direct citizens to her office, should they harbor consternation.

Councilwoman Nancy Noblet publicly responded that many residents do not feel comfortable approaching Ordiales with issues of importance, as they have allegedly reported feeling “bullied” by the mayor’s reproach, a concern raised during a live interview with Ordiales, aired by FYNTV.com prior to the mayoral election in 2017.

A final reading regarding the rejection of the tax increase is scheduled to occur during the upcoming Hiawassee Council work session on Sept. 24, at City Hall.

Feature Photo (L-R) Council members Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell, and Mayor Liz Ordiales

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Board of Education proposes annual millage rate

News
Towns county Board of Education

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Board of Education proposed a rollback millage rate of 7.671 percent during a special-called meeting on the morning of Tuesday, July 31. An additional meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, for Board’s final approval. The session will take place at 7:30 a.m. at the Board of Education office at 67 Lakeview circle in Hiawassee.

Towns County Superintendent Darren Berrong credits a steady increase in real estate values for the rollback, which was set at 7.956 percent in 2017. Real and Personal Property values in Towns County rose from over $731 million in 2013 to nearly $806 million in 2018.

“(The millage rate) is not a reduction in revenue for us, however,” Berrong stated, “It’s actually an increase of revenue of $40,000 which isn’t a significant increase for an individual taxpayer.” Berrong recommended acceptance to advertise the rollback rate, with the Board unanimously approving the motion.

View: 2018 Tax Digest – 5 year History

In addition, Towns County Board of Education approved the recommendation of Substitute Teacher Patricia “Trish” Cook, and Community Coach Tyler Crawford during Tuesday’s meeting.

Dr. Berrong stated that campus renovation is proceeding on schedule, with classes resuming on Aug. 16. Berrong said he has not received negative feedback from the community on the Board’s recent discussion on arming school personsell. Berrong says he plans to seek additional input from the community at an upcoming Lions Club meeting. The superindendent made mention of the third table-top emergency responder forum on school safety, scheduled for Aug. 6, disclosing that the school safety plan implemented must first be “approved by all emergency personell.” Detailed information concerning the plan will not be made available to the general public due to the safety-sensitive nature of the issue. As previously reported, the Board approved the hiring of a second school resourse officer to increase the safety level at Towns County Schools.

Towns County Board of Education will meet for their monthly work session at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 6, at the administrative office. Meetings are open to the public.

(Feature Image: Superintendent Darren Berrong (left) with Board member Robert Williams at Tuesday’s meeting)

Hiawassee’s plans may encompass more than meets the eye

Opinion
Hiawassee tax

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – There is no denying that times are always changing, and the sleepy, little town of Hiawassee, Georgia, population 903, is on a fast track to follow suit. While transformation is inevitable and often welcomed with open arms, members from the community have begun voicing their views on what it could mean for the lower-income population, and ultimately, the indigenous culture that has inhabited Towns County for centuries.

The course of action that the city of Hiawassee plans to enact implores the question of whether gentrification is at play. While most people understand the process and effects of gentrification, many remain unaware that an actual term exists. Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as “the process of renewal and rebuilding, accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people, into deteriorating areas that often results in the displacement of earlier, poorer residents.” In order for these areas to be revitalized, the areas must be essentially cleared out. This is achieved through the raising of taxes and service rates, often beyond the point of affordability.

During last year’s property tax increase hearings, Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett raised concern that senior residents on fixed-incomes are relocating due to heightened electricity costs, citing the city-imposed BRMEMC franchise “fee” as the reason given by the displaced. While the full council favored the franchise, the mayor’s proposal to reject the property tax rollback was ultimately defeated in a 3-2 vote.. On Jan. 28, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales divulged that a water rate increase is in the works, explaining that it has been six years since a spike last occurred.

On a cultural front, community concerns began to surface during a June town hall meeting, held in conjunction with the University of Georgia (UGA) Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which focused on a strategic, comprehensive project to sculpt the future of Hiawassee. While program participants overwhelmingly favored noble plans such as boosting tourism, advancing city beautification, and creating structured, economic growth, other suggestions raised eyebrows, particularly from the conservative population.Towns County news

Leslie McPeak – a vocal, local business owner who was later exalted to the city’s Board of Ethics by Mayor Ordiales – suggested deviation from long-held traditions, including a reduction in the amount of gospel and country concerts hosted in the area, determination that shops open their doors on Sundays to boost economic reward, and an assertion that the city should steer clear from the “Bible-Belt stigma” that has prevailed in Towns County since its foundation.

Months later, when the strategic plan was completed and introduced at Hiawassee City Hall, McPeak publicly inquired whether eminent domain, a highly-controversial practice in which the government expropriates private property for public use, was an option to abolish what McPeak considered an unattractive local business. A representative from the Carl Vinson Institute responded that grants, rather, may be available to encourage compliance with the city’s aesthetic vision. Additionally, McPeak drew media attention during a previous council session by harshly critizing a Republican election rally held last July on Hiawassee Town Square.

In recent events, Mayor Ordiales, who has been repeatedly praised as “progressive-minded” by supporters – in collaboration with newly-hired Economic Developer Denise McKay – stated during the council’s January work session that the city holds ambition for private land to be purchased by developers to construct “affordable” apartment housing in order to retain the local youth once they enter the workforce. The topic was broached when a citizen in attendance skeptically called into question the city’s goals for current residents and business owners. Ordiales replied that workers will be needed to fill certain positions, listing boat mechanics and hospitality workers as examples, due to a projected influx of a population which will require such services. Unprompted, Ordiales concluded that $800 a month in rent is considered reasonable, retracting the amount to $700 after the council and citizens failed to express a reaction to the mayor’s initial figure.

Upon query from FYN, Economic Developer McKay listed the inceptive phase of the project that Hiawassee intends to implement, and according to McKay that includes improving the appearance of the outdated post office and sprucing the entrance to Ingles while seeking a grant for artists to begin painting murals throughout the city.

It should be noted that the revitalization and preservation of historic structures is listed in the city’s five-year plan, with Mayor Ordiales often referencing the Old Rock Jail Museum as a point of reference, a site entrusted to the Towns County Historical Society by former Commissioner Bill Kendall. Ordiales stated to Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25 that two developers have shown interest in the vacant row of buildings on Main Street, west of the town square, although the structure located next to where Delco once stood will be demolished when purchased. Ordiales recited significant achievements in lowering the city’s inherited debt, acquiring numerous grants, and engineering a plan to improve the infrastructure – all critical components in expanding Hiawassee’s development – during the Movers and Shakers’ forum.

While a range of participants took part in the creation of the strategic plan, the contributors represent a small fraction of the population. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government described the project as a stepping stone, however, rather than an endeavor set in stone.

In sum, while economic growth and positive innovation is widely supported, it is the opinion of the author that the effect of particular politics and policies, left unchecked, has the potential to deteriorate the backbone of conservative communities, both fiscally and culturally. This is especially true if the public whom it affects remains disengaged from local happenings, and apathetic to eventual outcomes.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for their regular meeting to adopt the city’s strategic plan, as well as hold a first reading to expedite future ordinances by consolidating readings into a single session.

Public comment is prohibited during regular meetings.

The next work session, which will allow citizen input, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

In-depth information on the above, highlighted text can be found by clicking the links.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper-local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

 

 

Commissioner Bradshaw set to rollback millage rate

News, Politics
Commssioner cliff bradshaw

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced an upcoming special-called meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, at 5:30 pm, at the Towns County Courthouse, to set the annual millage rate.

The rate will rollback from 5.375 to 5.197 mills, amounting to $3,919,757 in county revenue.

“My goal is to keep property taxes as low as possible without jeopardizing the services that the county offers, especially public safety,” Bradshaw told FYN, “I feel at this time, with the improving economy and property values, we will be able to maintain the county services that we are accustom to.”

In local government terminology, a millage rate is synonymous with the property tax rate. The term “millage” is derived from a Latin word which means “thousandth.”

Therefore, 1 mill is equivalent to 1/1000th.

Commissioner Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Applied to taxes, 1 mill is equivalent to $1.00 in taxes per $1,000 in property value. If property has a taxable value of $100,000, and assessed at a 1 mill tax rate, the property owner would be required to pay $100.00 in annual taxes.

The standard way to calculate the tax bill, based on the millage rate, is to take the set rate, multiply it by the taxable value of the property, dividing the result by 1,000.

An independent mill rate for Towns County Fire and Rescue, which has been set at 0.500 mill in past years, is expected to decrease to 0.483, resulting in a comparable amount of $364,295 collected during the previous year.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

No increase in store for county taxpayers

News, Politics

City of Hiawassee reschedules property tax hike hearings

News, Politics
Hiawassee Tax

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) has learned that the previously selected dates of three mandatory public hearings, necessary in order for Hiawassee City Council to lawfully reject the millage rollback rate, have changed.

Hiawassee City Council held a called-meeting Aug. 16, in which that matter was discussed, and the dates were selected.

FYN has since inadvertently discovered that two public hearings will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., and a third on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6:00 p.m.

Georgia law requires that the public hearings are spaced seven days apart, rather than held on consecutive days.

hiawassee taxes

Click to enlarge

The city of Hiawassee is on track to reject the property tax rollback of 2.170, in favor of maintaining the current rate of 2.258 mills, despite heightened property value assessments.

Coverage of the Aug. 16 called-meeting is available.

Hiawassee City Council will hold their regular monthly work session on Monday, Aug. 27, at 6:00 p.m.

Meetings take place at Hiawassee City Hall, and are open to the public.

 

 

Heightened emotion at second Hiawassee tax increase hearing

News, Politics
Hiawassee City council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held the second of three mandatory public hearings on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 4, to alllow taxpayers to shed their thoughts on the rejection of the tax rate rollback.

FYN reported the first hearing which took place on the morning of Sept. 4.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and the full council were in attendance.

Four citizens were present at the hearing, all of whom offered objection to what will amount to an increased cost for property owners, should the rollback millage be denied.

“Is it worth the peasants paying for the castle?,” asked one passionate taxpayer, adding that she was displeased when the controversial BRMEMC Franchise Tax/Fee was adopted by the city of Hiawassee.

As in the prior hearings, on the current matter and the past franchise, concern was raised for those in the community who may be economically challenged.

“It is my strong public opinion that we should rollback to 2.170,” voiced another resident, stating that it is the consensus of those he has spoken with within the community.

One citizen presented opposition via a typed letter, handed to the mayor and council.

Concerns that taxpayer money may not be wisely applied was the prevalent message sounded at Hiawassee City Hall. Mayors’ Park was noted by Council members Nancy Noblet and Amy Barrett, as well as citizens, as being a source of mismanaged spending.

Noblet stated that she has not yet reached a decision on the millage rate, and will do so at the final hearing.

A resident reminded Councilwoman Anne Mitchell that she had previously relayed that there was no urgent need for increased city revenue, questioning the decision to support what will amount to higher taxation. Mitchell stated at today’s hearing that the sewer plant is of utmost concern.

Mayor Ordiales maintained that it is not tax increase, as the millage rate is set to remain fixed at the 2017 rate of 2.258 mills. State law requires that if the rollback rate is rejected, the proposal must be advertised as an increase to avoid backdoor taxation by government officials.

Residents noted the positive changes Ordiales has made since taking office, such as paying down loans inherited from a former administration, and the addition of sidewalks within the city.

Appreciation and gratitude for Hiawassee Police Department was expressed.

Ordiales cited duplicate reasoning for rejecting the rollback rate during the second hearing as was stated thoughout the first, with the exception of heavily emphasizing the need for adequately funding the police department during the latter forum.

The notion that taxpayer funds would be directly applied to the city’s law enforcement agency noticably softened tones and tension in the council chambers.

Councilwoman Patsy Owens seemingly favored rollback rejection, saying that city roads need repaved.

Councilwoman Amy Barrett made mention of the new flooring installed in City Hall, asking if it was a “necessity or nicity” of taxpayer money well-spent, adding that prioritized spending is of importance.

A one-sided verbal altercation occurred between Council member Anne Mitchell and Amy Barrett moments before the hearing was called to order, with Mitchell claiming that Barrett habitually addresses the elder councilwoman in a condesending manner. Mitchell was angered that FYN was recording the incident, turning off the media audio device, and placing it elsewhere on the council bench. Mitchell publicly announced that she does not wish to be recorded outside of session.

A final public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m. The milliage rate will be set immediately thereafter at 6:30 p.m.

Hiawassee City Council convenes for their regular monthy work session this evening, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Hiawassee City Council: Special Called Meeting, 7/18/17

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

Hiawassee, GA –  Council members assembled at City Hall on Tuesday evening, July 18, to announce the millage rate for 2018, review the budget, and provide an update on moratorium work.

Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Mayor Pro-Tem, reported the millage rate will remain at 2.258% which will amount to $165,157.00 if everyone within the city’s limits pays their taxes. Ordiales stated the percentage is “dirt bottom” in comparison to other regions with the exception of Blairsville. Blairsville receives additional revenue from their airport.

The most notable change to the moratorium was the adoption of regulation requiring owners of property under an acre to follow the same rules as those with larger parcels. The height restriction remains at 35 feet and a 10 foot easement is necessary to ensure adequate space for neighboring property lines. The updated moratorium in its entirety will be posted on the City’s website.

The General Fund is estimated to generate $714,950.00 in 2017-2018. Total General expenses are proposed at $462,750.00 minus the funding for the Hiawassee Police Department (HPD). HPD’s total revenue was $113,213.29 between July of 2016 and March of 2017 while expenses amounted to $321,419.69. 

The cost of funding Hiawassee Police Department is greater than the revenue acquired through the sale of maps and calendars, provision of accident reports, municipal court fines and private contributions.

The 2017-2018 General Fund has been adjusted to avoid a future deficit.

The 2017-2018 budget is itemized in detail on the City’s worksheets and proposed as follows:

Hotel/Motel Fund – $60,000.00
SPLOST Fund – $349,000.00
Water Fund – $1,611,300.00
Sewer Fund – $785,120.00
Water Treatment Fund – $810,220.00

Hiawassee City Council meets on the last Monday of each month for work sessions and assembles for regular sessions on the following Tuesday.

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