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3 commissioners block tax debate

It should come as no surprise that an immovable majority on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners — who put their relatives on the Board of Elections to oversee their re-election bids, push expensive and unwarranted road projects, voted on contacts and other expenditures in the millions without putting the items on an agenda, voted to keep us in the regional mass transit plans and consistently approve no-bid contracts for everything from grass cutting to engineering services — is frantically attempting to thwart a fellow commissioner from trying to rescue a failed budgeting process which would devastate the county.

I have never before witnessed such a disintegration of leadership in a governmental body. The three-member majority on the Board of Commissioners has gone to great lengths to block an attempt to save the FY 2012 budget and future budgets by forestalling my measure until the final budget vote is taken at the June 23 meeting.

In a weak, veiled move to pull my agenda item from the meeting, the majority of three commissioners infuriated a very large crowd who gathered to hear my proposal on using new legislation, HB 240, to save the proposed county budget and keep future budgets from wrecking.

Much like the U.S. Congress, the county government has taken to deficit budgeting. Unfortunately, the officials have disseminated a great deal of misinformation in past years regarding the health of our county finances.

Our Commission Chairman, Herb Frady, said he thinks a financial picture where a plus-$2 million in expenses and a minus-$2 million in revenue, following our current budget where the expected revenue projections were minus-6.6 percent of the figure from the year prior “is sustainable.”

Let me add that a phony number cited to the citizens as a “rainy day fund” or reserve fund was actually compiled from raiding capital and vehicle funds and deferring maintenance on county infrastructure.

Several fund balances were allowed to run into deficits.

The saddest part of all is the three-member majority is willing to train wreck our county finances over their desire to build the road no one wants: West Fayetteville Bypass. The developer welfare bypass is totally unwarranted.

However, instead of utilizing my proposal of allowing the citizens to vote on whether to use our Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds to rescue our financial mess and help bail us out in future years, they chose to kill any effort to bring it for a vote.

Our county attorney, kowtowing to the majority, told them they could interpret the county policies any way they desired. Thus, the lowly bunch voted to table the item knowing the final vote of the county’s budget would be the next meeting on June 23.

I had an extensive discussion with the County Administrator regarding my intentions toward reviving the budget in May. His memorandum dated May 25, 2011 to all the commissioners noted that conversation.

The County Administrator’s memorandum acknowledged I was looking at HB 240 as a solution. It cited, “The information is being provided to each Board member recognizing there may be additional budget discussion during the upcoming Public Hearings.”

Regrettably, the three-member majority shut down all efforts to have any discussion at the public meeting in order to save their precious special interest bypass project, not wanting the people to vote them down in a referendum.

To be abusive to the very end, Commissioner Lee Hearn (his relatives own land near the West Fayetteville Bypass) attempted to discredit the use of HB 240 immediately after they kept me from speaking on the subject. That was the last straw for me and I walked out of the meeting.

The audience, filled with highly intelligent people from all over the county, was absolutely furious.

Our county is in a serious quandary. Quite a few of the actions taken by our county government are not financially or ethically sound.

You know when they fear your capability to speak on significant systemic problems in front of an audience and the news media to the point where they are willing to censor you like some sort of communist tyrant even though they have the ability to vote your measure down, something bad is happening.

The suspicions are great as to what the “payoff” is for carrying the West Fayetteville Bypass to completion. I have made offers to let the Board of Commissioners buy the right-of-way for the bypass and use the remainder of the funds from the East and West bypasses to salvage our bleak financial situation. Offer not accepted.

The three member majority are duty bound to act in the best interest of the people of Fayette County. I urge you to come to the June 23 meeting at 7 p.m. and stand with the others who want principled government and no significant raises in taxation.

Steve Brown

County Commissioner, Post 4

Peachtree City, Ga.



grassroots's picture

Cities and counties across the country are facing the same problem. They are fighting back with signatures. The aim is to either get the proposal to the voters or a recall. My understanding is that a majority vote (not a super-majority) is enough. Plus, I believe they have to stop all activity (raise taxes, or stop whatever is petitioned) once the signatures are in, placing it on a 2012 ballot. Worth looking into.

suggarfoot's picture

we need to repurpose the by pass money and pay our bills...not raise taxes...we are tapped out.

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