Pickens Seniors For CHange

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July 24th, 2018 Critical Meeting



PICKENS SENIORS FOR CHANGE
LEADER FORMING DISCUSSION/COMMITTEE GROUP



We, the supporters of  Pickens Seniors for Change, announce that a committee is to be formed to discuss the feasibility of a change to the current school tax exemption.  If you are a concerned property owner, or a concerned citizen who cares about seniors, please attend.

We have learned that the committee discussion does not have to take place in Atlanta, but can be done here in Pickens County.  It will be held Tuesday, July 24, 6:00 P.M. at Chattahoochee Tech, Jasper Campus.

The committee will be composed of homeowners and other private citizens.  We ask that our community leaders, local business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as our elected officials…i.e. the Commissioners, at least two school board members… be in attendance.  Senators Gooch and Payne will be invited, along with our State Representative, Rick Jasperse.

This committee will be a community round-table discussion on the expansion of the senior school tax, and will be comprised of not just one speaker, but of many.  Everyone will have a chance to speak and/or ask questions.  This will be your chance to share relevant information that you possess.   

The two tax exemption plans under consideration will be explained and discussed, and changes made if necessary.  This discussion is critical, inasmuch, as decisions made by this committee will be forwarded to our State elected officials.

If you would like to be on this committee,  please email me.  Include your name and your stance on the tax exemption. There are openings for fifty people from each side of the equation…a total of 100 committee members.


Please contact:
 
Lee Williamson
pickensseniors@windstream.net
pickensseniorsforchange.com


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Note from PIckens Seniors for Change:

Since I have started this movement to gain support of a meaningful senior tax exemption, I have never witnessed such blatant disrespect for senior citizens than I have in Pickens County.  The young people in Pickens (and when I say "young," I mean anyone under the age of 50), whether through social media, or in person, or in news print, display such vehement disrespect for their elders.  If I had talked to my parents the way some of these young people talk to us seniors, I would have found myself laying in the floor with the imprint of a hand across my face.  Of course, I would NEVER have disrespected my parents in the first place. 

Such was the atmosphere of last night's meeting (March 13).  I have a sneaking suspicion that the young people attending my last two meetings were paid to disrupt the meeting and bring havoc to the discussion.  What's wrong with the young people in this County?  Do they disrespect their own parents in such a manner?  How sad.

The thing that I see in each of those people that oppose the senior tax exemption, is that it all boils down to the fact that they may have to contribute more money to their children's education, in the form of increased property taxes.  They don't want to...they want someone else to do it, namely the seniors of this County.  As one lady put it, "I've paid school taxes for more than fifty years.  I'm tired of paying for the education of other people's children, especially now that I'm not in any shape financially to do so."

Isn't it time for the parents of these children to step up and take responsibility for the education of their own children?  When I was young, and had children in school, I didn't mind paying  school taxes.  That was my responsibility and not the responsibility of the elders in my county.  Now...we are at a crossroads and live on a fixed income.  The young do not have a clue what it's like to be our age and encounter limitations, especially the limitation of increasing our incomes.  It isn't right that the young people, who have the ability to work and earn a higher income, should oppose a senior tax exemption.  And all I hear out of this hullabaloo is the fact that a senior tax exemption will "hurt the children."  Baloney!  I don't know about the rest of you, but I am so tired of hearing the same old diatribe, "it's for the children," I could literally throw up.  WE all know it is not for the children.  It's at the behest of a few so-called leaders in this County who  are afraid of losing control. Every little bit of control that is chipped away leads to the loss of more and more control, until they are no long in control.


                                                                           

Reprinted from the Pickens Progress Newspaper - November 2017


                                                                          SENIOR TAX EXEMPTION IS NOT THE BIG, BAD WOLF OPPONENTS CLAIM


Taxes will always be a hotly debated subject.  This Country fought a revolutionary war over the injustice of taxation.  More than 200 years later, the war is still being fought.

Because there are a lot of boring mathematics involved in the process of taxation, people tend to lose interest in speeches about taxes.

Speaking before an audience about taxes is akin to attending church on Sunday.  Unless you have a pastor who delivers a fire and brimstone sermon, he is apt to lose a few of his congregation to a nap.

The fire and brimstone will be absent in this sermon.

Pickens County has approximately 30,000 residents.  Of the 30,000, approximately 20 per cent of its residents are age 65 and over.  A statement in the local newspaper in April of this year stated, "Of the $42,940,989 total (school) budget, $21,497,613 is collected locally in ad valorem (school taxes).  If 20 percent of the local collections were exempted and the budget remained the same, it would reqwuire an additional 3.196 mils to be applied to those taxpayers who did not qualify for the exemption, to make up for the shortfall."

Except for the dollar amounts, that statement is totally inaccurate!  If you multiply 30,000 by 20 percent, it gives an answer of 6,000.  That is 6,000 INDIVIDUALS who are age 65 and over.  NOT 6,000 HOMES!  We are taxed per residence, not per person.  Except for those who are widowed, seniors usually live two-to-a-house.  So, if you assume there are 3,000 males, and 3,000 females in that 6,000 total...that's a possible 3,000 homes.  Now we're looking at 10 percent, along with a projected increase of only 1.59 mil.

Actually, there are 2,767 males, and 3,047 females, age 65 and over, living in Pickens County.

There are roughly 14,139 housing units in Pickens County, and 8,696 of those are owner-occupied.  There are 2,902 homes owner-occupied by seniors age 65 and over....

The average home value in Pickens is $182,429.  The average Fair Market Value of a home is $150,000.  We pay taxes on 40 percent of the Fair Market Value.

Subtracting the "homestead" deduction of $5,000 from that 40 percent , that gives us $55,000 that a house with an average Fair Market Value of $150,000 has to pay taxes on.  Using the 2016 mil rate, that calculates to $878.90 that $150,000 home pays in school taxes.  Using the 2,902 total of owner-occupied homes by seniors, that equals to a projected loss of $2,550,8858.  Using the mil rates for 2017 shows a projected loss of $2,498,622.  That amount would be even lower, given the variables...which are:

Some seniors feel that it is their obligation to pay school taxes, and will not take the exemption.  Some are part-time residents, and will not be eligible for the exemption.  One tax plan has a limit of 10 acres, making some senior homeowners ineligible for the exemption.  Another plan has an income cap of $40,000, but excludes retirement and social security.  The third tax exemption plan has a maximum of $153,400 assessed value.  That means homes that have a fair market value of more than $383,400 would have to pay SOME  school taxes.  Those homeowners would pay school taxes ONLY on the amount over and above the maximum of $153,400.

Since it is impossible to know the impact a senior tax exemption will actually have on the school taxes collected, a 5-year "sunset clause" has been built into all three plans.

At the end of five years, if the loss of school tax revenue is substantial, the issue can be "revisited," and the appropriate adjustment can be made to the tax exemption law.

The tax exemption CANNOT be taken away.  It can only be adjusted...and that adjustment has to be placed on the ballot and approved by the voters.

Meetings on this subject will begin after the first of the year.  At that time, more facts and figures will be forthcoming.




 Reprinted  from Pickens Progress Newspaper - July 20, 2017

   

                                                      SENIOR TAX EXEMPTION STRAW POLL MAKES BALLOT

Pickens Seniors for Change, an advocacy group fighting for additional tax exemptions for senior property owners, achieved a milestone this week with the approval of a straw poll question for next year's Republican primary ballot.

The advocacy group has been pushing for changes to the County's current tax exemption policies for years, arguing that Pickens County seniors - especially those on fixed income - are "going broke" because of their property taxes.  Pickens County currently offers a full exemption for property owners 62 years and older with a household income of less than $25,000.

Pickens  Seniors for Change has been told by State Senator Steve Gooch that the group must get a non-binding straw poll question about additional exemptions on a ballot before he will consider putting a binding question before voters.

The Pickens County Republican party recently voted to approve putting a straw poll question on their primary ballot in May, based in part by the large number of supporters the advocacy group has garnered.  A public forum they held in April drew over 140 residents and they have received over 2,500 petition signatures from people who support additional exemption.

Lee Williamson, leader of Pickens Seniors for Change, announced the ballot addition in an email to group supporters.  She said in the e-mail that the question must appear on both the Republican Democratic primary ballots for state leaders to consider putting a binding question on the November 2018 ballot.

Pickens County GOP Chairman William Bell said the local party has formed a sub-committee that will work on crafting the ballot question over the coming months, and would like to coordinate with the Democratic party during the process.

"We would like to have the questions on both the Democratic and Republican ballot be the same, so we would like to work with the Democratic party to make that happen," Bell said.

According to Pickens Democratic Party Chair, G. David Robinson, the Democratic party is typically not supportive of initiatives that cut the public-school budget, but said the group would be discussing the issue at their Tuesday, July 18th meeting.  Depending on the outcome of those discussions, they will consider working with the Republican party on straw poll questions wording.

In her email, Williamson said she has been asked to come up with calculations about the impact of a tax exemption on the county and school system, but admits nailing down those figures is a challenge.

"This is going to be a far-flung estimate, at best," she wrote.  "According to the tax commissioner, Darien Satterfield, and (the chief tax appraiser), Roy Dobbs, there is no way to extrapolate from their computer system the number of houses occupied by residents over the age of 65."

Pickens County has approximately 30,000 residents, about 21 percent ofwhich are age 65 and over.

"I have statistics and computations for almost everything else, but I do not have an answer as to the number of owner/occupied households age 65 and over," she said.




Reprinted from the Pickens Progress newspaper - May 2017


The Pickens County Seniors for Change meeting last week, where nearly 150 concerned residents came to hear about next steps for getting a senior tax exemption here, was the largest meeting we've covered in months.

We're always thrilled to see citizens speak their minds, but we were glad our State Senator, Steve Gooch, was there to offer reasonable precautions about the long-term implications of a tax exemption.

Three things he said stuck out:

First: "If you take away half the people in this room that are paying, the other half have to make up the difference unless the expenses are cut.  If you eliminate half the taxpayers in the system the burden is a shift to the people that are still paying."

Second:  "Whatever you put forward will pass.  I can almost assure you.  Be careful what you ask for because you're probably going to get it,"  Gooch said.

Third:  He said in every county he's worked with on these has been a "significant" increase to the millage rate after an exemption passed.

Like commission chair Rob Jones (who was wrongly described at the meeting as backing the group) said, we're not opposed to exploring the dollars and cents of what an expanded exemption would look lie.  (Pickens Currently offers a full exemption for residents over 62 who have a household income of less tha n $25,000).

However, this is not the time to be hasty.  Poor planning and research now could lead to disaster.  And, once passed, it can't be quickly, if ever, reversed.

Gooch likened removing or changing an exemption once it's in place is as hard as taking away Social Security benefits.

According to the U.S. Census, Pickens County has almost a 21 percent senior citizen population.  If we enact something like Gilmer County - a 100 percent exemption for anyone 65 and older with no limitations, a.k.a. the Cadillac Plan - that's a big slice of the taxpayer pie that we would need to make up.

We realize Pickens Seniors for Change is looking at several types of exemption plans but we think Gooch is right that whatever referendum gets on the ballot as a straw poll will have over-whelming support, and because of this we need to be especially careful.

Like Gooch, we urge our elected officials, Pickens Seniors for Change members and other residents involved in the process to take time and formulate the bast option for the entire county, which includes not only seniors and seniors on fixed incomes, but young families, business owners, and everyone else.

Our commission board and school board, who have gone back and forth about who is responsible for getting the ball rolling, need to belly up to the bar and work together because this issue is not going away anytime soon.

We know our elderly population can struggle if they are on fixed income and we want to support them, but this is a big change and we need to do it right the first time. 



Reprinted from the Pickens Progress - November 2016 - Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Ten percent this year, another  six percent next year.  Are you out of your mind?  Why is all the industry going to Ballground?  Stupid question.  Taxes?  There are two hole in the earth sucking up your money.  Washington D.C. and Pickens County.  Water park D.O.A., no kidding, really?

The three commissioners are running unopposed on the ballot...don't vote for them, in tax protest.  Please vote, though.  Please vote on everybody else, even unopposed, not them.  They are killing taxpayers, home values and future business in Pickens.

Why do we have a Chamber of Commerce?  We have no commerce.


Richard Marsh



Reprinted from the Pickens Progress - November 2016 - Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor

Mr. Bowyer, I am, in no way, impugning your character, but I am questioning your understanding of the tax situation in Pickens County.  You said in your letter of October 27, "I believe all taxpayers should be treated equally under the law.  Government shouldn't play favorites."  I agree whole-heartedly with your statement, but let's examine it from the standpoint of the situation as actually exists in Pickens.

Are you not aware that only property owners pay property and school taxes in the county?  If you don't own property here, you don't have to pay either of these taxes; that is, the property owner picks up your tab.  And they pay your share of school taxes, no matter how many kids you have in county or city schools.  Why is it that only the property owners pay these taxes?  And they pay the school tax even if they have never had any kids in school.  (Should property owners only be allowed to vote?)

Most seniors who own property have been paying these taxes for a long time, perhaps as many as four decades.  They still have to pay the school tax even if their children and grandchildren have long ago left the hallowed halls of senior high.  Most seniors live on modest means of fixed retirement and social security (which they have paid into all their working lives), and they get no annual raises to keep up with inflation and ever rising taxes and insurance costs, while having to make repairs on their homes and automobiles and occasionally need to replace expensive appliances.  These things can deplete whatever savings they accumulated.  It seems only fair to seniors who have spent a lifetime contributing their talents, expertise, and treasure to the success of this county, state and nation that they could get some relief from paying the school tax.  You, too, may benefit when you become a fixed-income senior.

To make such matters worse, I live in a housing development in north Pickens in which the residents pay high property taxes and school taxes, but get no county services in return - this is called taxation without representation.  School buses do not come into the community to pickup and discharge school kids; this takes place at the entrance.  We have no county water or sewage; no sheriff or police care cruise through looking for possible problems unless one is reported; the community is responsible for constructing and maintaining our own streets at additional expense.  The only county services we receive here is the annula tax statement from the tax commissioner.

So I ask you, Mr. Bowyer, where do we start in order to achieve the vaunted equal treatment under the law that you spoke of?


William Pless


Reprinted from the Pickens Progress - November 2016 - Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Should our senior citizens continue to pay school taxes or, as in many other counties around Pickens, enjoy an exemption?  Those who believe seniors should not have an exemption believe seniors have an obligation to the education of the next generation.  The unspoken part of their argument is that by forcing seniors to pay school taxes, their portion of their own tax bill will be that much smaller.

The argument has been advanced that seniors should pay  the taxes because it is only fair that everyone pays a tax.  But that is not always the case.  Take FICA and Medicare taxes.  Those who  are no longer employed, as in the case of our seniors, do not pay those taxes.  Too, a look at our convoluted tax codes demonstrates that people pay different percentages of taxes, based on net income, with federal income taxes ranging from 0 to 39%.  Consider that working families at least have the potential to increase their income, but that is not an option available to seniors.

It has been the mantra of many that we must spend ever-increasing amounts to fund schools and for the education of our children.  Yet, regardless of how much is spent per child, it never seems to be enough.  And what do we get for our money?  The acts show our expenditures don't seem to produce a superior level of student performance, and are certainly not proportional to the level of expenditure per child.  That high levels of spending will yield a higher level of performance has proven false.

There is concern expressed that our schools will not have enough money to operate without the taxes on the senior citizens.  Yet, somehow, surrounding counties seem to be able to operate just fine without it.  Is it a matter of inefficiency on the part of our school board?  As citizens, we all have to live on a budget while the school board lives in our pockets.

A collateral result of the school tax on seniors is a reduction of the value of our real estate.  This decrease in desirability in buying a house or property in Pickens County, or the reduction in price you can sell your house for is a direct consequence of taxing our seniors.

Everyone recognizes that seniors have financial limitations.  This is reflected in such diverse programs as seniors discounts, to federally, a release from laws such as Obamacare.  The precedent for relief for seniors clearly exists.  Seniors have paid school taxes their entire working lives, and for far more years than they actually had children in school.  That money could translate into giving our seniors a little dignity in their closing years.


​Steven Strother




Reprinted from the Pickens Progress - October 2016 - Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Re: the news article of October 13, "Teacher pay in Pickens reported as the ninth highest in state."

Now we know why our property taxes are so high.  Now we know why the school budget is so bloated.  Now we know why our commissioners will not give seniors a tax break.

What is this money paying for?  It's definitley not a quality education.

The state of Georgia has graded Pickens County schools as C and D.  So it goes to show you that more money does not equal a better education.

This is a direct quote from city-data.com concerning the graduation rate in Pickens County Georgia schools:  "City-data.com school rating (using weighted 2010 test average as compared to other schools in Georgia) from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) is 56."

That's right...Pickens County has a graduation rating of 56.  In comparison, Cherokee High schools rate a 74 graduation rate; Dawson County rates a 66; Gilmer County rates a 65; and West Forsyth rates a 78; Sequoyah High school (in Canton) rates an 81.

In addition, Pickens County High School rating, compared to average state, county, and city schools ratings, is 47.

So, I ask again, what are these bloated salaries paying for?

It is interesting to note, also, that more than one-third of our school system employees live in other counties.  Guess they don't pay so good in the other counties.  But those other counties definitely have a better graduation rate.

Another interesting fact: All these counties have a senior tax exemption.  

Again...more money DOES NOT equal a better education.


Charlotte Williamson 

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Reprinted from the Pickens Progress - October 2016 - Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Congratulations to you and your staff on a well-done article, "Our Public Rulers: The Commissioners who would be King (Oct. 6th edition)."  You hit the name on the head.  Our elected officials turn a blind eye to the needs of the people they are supposed to be representing.  The same thing could be said about the people whom we elected on the State level, also.  It seems, once they take office, they forget who put them there in the first place.

Please remember to teprint this same newspaper article the next time local elections are held.  Votesr forget so easily.


Lee Williamson

Pickens Seniors for Change



This news article (reprinted below from the Pickens County Progress) entitled CLARIFICATION/COMMENT is in rebuttal to the erroneous and misleading news article (also reprinted below), entitled PICKENS TAXES STACK UP WELL COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTIES.


February 2016 -  CLARIFICATION/COMMENT

 Last week's front page story on "Pickens taxes stack up well compared to other counties," produced a number of comments, though none for publications, and a couple of office visits. One person brought a graph that showed the effects of the senior tax exemptions in surrounding counties.  The graph indicated that when the senior tax exemptions given by some other counties are factored in, then Pickens taxes are the highest among those shown.

But the man said one part of our story he agreed with fully is it is hard to nail down exactly what other counties offer.  He said he didn't want the graph published at this time because he wanted someone else to check his figures.

A second visitor brought information in rebuttal to a statement in the article made about Union County.  The information showed their elderly school tax exemption.  But according to the information provided, Union doesn't provide a full exemption.  Rather their county website says, "Exemption up to $10,000 off the school tax portion of the 40 per cent assessed value.  Available to homeowners 62 or older with net total family incomes less than $10,000, EXCLUDES Social Security and Retirement. 

(an aside note to readers:  Pickens County INCLUDES Social Security and retirement)

Union County also offers double county exemption "available to homeowners 65 or older with net income of applicant and spouse is less than $10,000, EXCLUDES Social Security and retirement."

In defense of the article we point out that the original statement did not say that Union offers no exemptions. Rather it quoted Chief Tax Appraiser Roy Dobbs saying that counties like Union and Rabun which offer "few" exemptions generally have the lowest overall tax rates.


The following article (reprinted from the Pickens County Progress) is the news article that is referred to in the rebuttal reprinted above.

The article  is misleading, and, we believe, is an attempt to turn people against the exemption measure when it gets on the ballot, so that they will vote against it. The article states that Pickens has a lower mill rate compared to Dawson or Gilmer.  What is DOESN'T state is that both those counties give tax exemptions to their senior homeowners.  Gilmer County gives 100% exemption from school taxes if you are 65 or over.  In comparison, taking that into account, that makes Pickens County one of the HIGHEST-TAXED counties around.

(My rebuttal comments are in parenthesis.)


February 2016 - PICKENS TAXES STACK UP WELL COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTIES

Figures gathered by county government show that Pickens stacked up well when compared to nearby counties for having a low property tax rate for 2015.

Pickens had a total property tax rate of 23.372 mills, comprised of .05 for state tax; 16.1 for schools and 7.222 for county government in 2015.

This is roughly a mill lower than either Dawson or Gilmer counties, which both have millage rates around 24.6. (see my note above)

The rate here is also well below Cherokee County with a rate of 29.4 mills for 2015.  (again, they fail to mention that Cherokee gives a substantial discount to senior homeowners). Pickens had a higher rate than Fannin County, which boasted one of the lowest rates in the region at 17.744.  (And it STILL manages to give senior homeowners a discount) 

Pickens County Chief Tax Appraiser Roy Dobbs said people who come to his office are usually surprised to see how low local property taxes compare to other counties and, strange enough, are often upset.  (I bet he doesn't tell those same people that there are NO discounts for senior property owners).  "They come in to tell us how much better they do somewhere else and when we show them the rates, they get mad," he said.

The figures also show that the larger, heavy commercial counties like Cobb and Fulton have higher property rates.  (They also have a much larger population, and also give their senior homeowners substantial property tax discounts discounts).  The idea that more commercial growth brings lower taxes does not appear to have played out in the surrounding areas.  As to the much discussed senior school tax exemptions, most surrounding counties offer some type of exemption for seniors of different age limits, income limits and the amount they exempt.  Some also limit exemptions to specified amounts of acreage or property value.

Pickens offers a comple tax exemption only for seniors 62 or older who have a household income less than $25,000.  ( and the county INCLUDES Social Security and retirement; other counties do not)

Dobbs said it is really hard to compare local exemptions county-to-county.  "With the rates that is easy, everyone publishes a rate," he said, "but with exemptions you really have to sit down and see what they are.  You are entering a quagmire." (it wasn't a "quagmire" for the other counties who give the exemptions)

The Georgia Department of Revenue website offers break-downs from different counties, but because of the array of different plans, it's hard to find a comprehensive list of what exemptions are offered for all Georgia counties.  

See https://dor.georgia.gov/county-property-tax-facts for a starting point comparing different counties.  (look at the "home" page of this website to find additional website information)

Dobbs said there is a wide array of different exemptions across the state for seniors in regard to school taxes.  He said the idea that all or most counties offer complete senior school tax exemptions is not accurate.

"Most do something," he said in regard to senior school exemption.  "But it's different.  Some do nothing, some do a little and some have complete exemptions."

Dobbs said in Pickens the $25,000 income threshold to receive the exemption protects elderly residents who really need it.  (out of the roughly 30,000 residents in Pickens, less than 500 homeowners qualify for this shameful farce)

"It's a total exemption if you meet the qualifications," he said.  "I'm not sure what else you could do other than offer a complete exemption."  (how about excluding Social Security and retirement?  Right now, Pickens County INCLUDES Social Security and retirement in that $25,000 income threshold.) 

Dobbs also cautions people who argue that the county can "afford" to offer a full exemption.  He said they need to realize that it's not a matter of affording.  "It is shifting the tax burden to everyone who doesn't get the exemption."  (of course it is.  People who have children in school SHOULD pay more taxes than the elderly who live on a fixed income).

(And here's the stupid statement referenced in the above rebuttal)  Looking at exemptions in general, Dobbs said counties like Rabun and Union which offer few exemptions for anything, also have the lowest overall property tax rates.         

     

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According to the article below (Pickens still considered wealthy by state standards) Pickens County is considered a "wealthy" county, compared to the surrounding counties.  Yet, the surrounding counties give some form of meaningful property tax exemption to their senior homeowners.  Were is the logic in this?  They site Big Canoe and Bent tree as being the culprits.  Further analysis of this situation shows that Pickens County employees are paid more.  That also contributes to the "wealthy" status.

If the surrounding counties can give senior homeowners property tax exemptions, and they are not considered "wealthy" by the state, why can't so-called "wealthy" Pickens county give their senior homeowners property tax exemptions?


Reprinted from the Pickens County Progress - January, 2016 


PICKENS STILL CONSIDERED WEALTHY BY STATE STANDARDS  


The economic development director Nechvatal reported that Pickens County has again been designated as a Tier 4 county in Georgia, which means it is considered one of the wealthiest in the state.  A Tier 4 status makes it more difficult for Pickens to receive certain grants because of the higher-than-average per capita income.  Weaver pointed to what he called the "elephants in the room." or the Bent Tree and Big Canoe gated communities that he said skew and increase the county's average income level.  Citing a Georgia Power study, Nechvatal said Pickens' wage average is $39,284, which is higher than surrounding counties of Cherokee ($37,284); Gilmer ($28,500); Fannin ($28,700); and Dawson ($26,156).



Printed from the Pickens Progress, dated December 17, 2015


SENIORS PRESS CASE FOR TAX EXEMPTIONS WITH SCHOOL BOARD

Seniors homeowners in Pickens County should be exempt from paying school taxes was the theme of the public participation portion of last week's board of education meeting.

"We are not trying to pull the rug out from education," said Pickens County resident Anthony Pope.  "We are just wanting to protect the elderly."

Three Pickens County residents addressed the board with questions regarding future plans for schools in the county and the opinion of the board regarding a broader senior education tax exemption, which is part of the property tax bill.  Many of the participants are part of a group called Pickens Seniors for Change.

In an interview, Pope said that​ the board is not in charge of whether or not a more inclusive education exemption is granted for seniors, however, the school board's opinion regarding exemption is an important part of Pickens County adopting a broader exemption. Currently, Pickens County does have a school tax homestead exemption.  In order to qualify for the exemption, a resident must be 62 years of age or older, and the gross income for the entire household must be less than $25,000 (including social security, retirement income, and income from the sale of property in the previous year).

In contrast, the state of Georgia school tax exemption law states that "up to $1,000 of the assessed value of the home of an older homeowner will be exempt from school taxes if: 1. The homeowner is 62 or older and lives in the home; 2. The net income of the homeowner and his'her spouse is not greater than $10,000 per year.  Net income does not include social security benefits or a pension.

The Georgia net income requirement is based on a formula for 2015, the formula had a set income of $63,912 for joint applicants and retirement benefits may be excluded.

Tax exemptions are not automatically granted.  Senior residents must apply for exemptions.

In board comments, at the end of the meeting, Chairman Mike Cowart thanked tyhe community members who spoke and said the tax exemption could be studied by at this point "no one knows what (an exemption) would affect and what could be done."

In further comments, board member Delane Lewis suggested that the community form a committee to get as many voices involved in the process as possible.



 I'm sure the author of the following article, "Unmasking the mythical Good Ol' Boys network," wrote it as a tongue-in-cheek, comic- relief piece of fluff.  No one with a modicum of intelligence would accept it as anything else.   But, sadly, many people believe that newspapers print only the truth.  Perhaps the author himself is part of the "Good Ol' Boys" network, and wrote the article in hopes of convincing that particular audience that the "Good Ol' Boys Network" does not exist.  


The encyclopedia describes Good Ol' Boys Network as:  A group of well socialized men who live in rural and generally Southern areas,  

someone who engages in cronyism, who have known each other for a long period of time.  Collectively, these people are referred to as the good ol' boy network (also known as an old boys' club.)

The American Heritage Dictionary describes Good Ol' Boys Network as:  Men having qualities held to be characteristic of certain Southern white males, such as a relaxed or informal manner, strong loyalty to family and friends, and often an anti-intellectual bias and intolerant point of view.

 Folks, the "Good Ol' Boys" network is NOT mythical, and is alive and well, in the South, and especially in Pickens County.  It's not a club you are invited to join.  Whether it's through fate or ancestry, you are born into it.  The club members' main objective is THEMSELVES.  They WILL take the populace into consideration, but only if it benefits the Network.


This article is reprinted from the Pickens County Progress

 

                                                                          UNMASKING THE MYTHICAL GOOD OL' BOYS NETWORK

I                                                                                                       by Dan Poole, Editor

I try not to be petty living in a small town.  But frankly my continued exclusion from one club has long bothered me.  I have never been invited to become part of the "Good Ol' Boys Network."

Maybe it's because I work at a newspaper or maybe it's because I don't believe they exist.  Being asked to join this club would be like receiving an invitation from a band of Sasquatches, roaming Burnt Mountain.  Both are mythical, though there are oft-cited reports of damage they cause.

Twice in the past month, I have fielded comments about the activities of the Good Ol' Boys and their platform on growth.

In the first case, someone attributed the massive Port Royal Water Park (proposed for highway 515) as being a project driven by the Good Ol' Boys.  They argued that no one else in the community wants it and so it must be the the mysterious "powers-that-be" keeping it alive - though it moves only at a glacial pace - if at all.

It would have been fun to play along, agreeing that it's a well known fact that southern Good Ol' Boys love water-slides more than football and no doubt some hidden mover and shaker has already locked up a lucrative sunscreen concession. But I didn't.

I pointed out that the site is actually owned by a real estate division of a major national timber company.  And none of the developers with Port Royal have any local ties that we are aware of.

While nefarious schemes are fun to speculate on, this one is a basic business operation, conducted at a national level with big investors and a corporate property owner.

In the next reported Good Ol' Boys siting, someone commented to the Progress that downtown Jasper can't develop because the Good Ol' Boys like it just the way it is and run off other businesses - especially new eateries and most especially any establishment that wants to sell alcohol.

Some variations on this conjecture surface a couple of times a year, that forces unseen are intentionally driving businesses away.  I have heard this conspiracy theory a number of times to explain why businesses thought to be popular here (Chick-fil-A and music venues) don't come.

Except for a few curmudgeons, it's hard to believe that most people wouldn't welcome something unique, like a microbrewery, locating in the renovated NAPA building on Main Street.

Shying away from a massive water park is one thing, but the idea that local powers-that-be are somehow figuring out who is seeking to locate here and then stopping them is ludicrous.  Certainly nothing has stopped the businesses in the Home Depot and Kroger shopping areas.

Rather than an unseen hand, it's a case of the Invisible Hand - as in the economic theory that the invisible hand of the market drives business, proposed in the 1700s by Adam Smith and not related to Good Ol' Boy conspiracies at all.  While Smith was talking in broad terms, his theory explains well what we get and don't get here - the market (demand) drives the economy.

The reason there is no Chick-fil-A?  No one capable of making that investment has felt the best use of their resources is to locate one here.

Often people opine that the City needs to get some business to move here, as though it's a function of government to determine what private entrepreneurs do.  It's not.  The city of Jasper can't very well force someone to open on Main Street, though a little more work at seeing the town is well promoted to potential buyers/renters would surely help.

Ultimately, I am optimistic about the local economy, whether the water park and microbrewery show up or not.  We see new businesses opening regularly on a slow and steady pace.  While we may not be seeing the high profile businesses that excite everyone, the small business environment here is expanding.

Of course, if I am wrong and the Good Ol' Boys network is meeting, I'd still be open to get together with them and drink microbrews, eat Chick-fil-A and visit a water park.  You can send my invite to the newspaper. 



The following excerpts are reprinted with permission from the Pickens County Progress.


Dear Editor,

Bravo to the Pickens Seniors for Change.  Their ad hits the nail on the head.  I bought a house in Pickens County unaware of the political and tax situation.  They offer seniors nothing.  The property taxes keep getting higher and higher.  This is NOT good for people on a fixed income.  Other counties offer seniors tax breaks, not here.

The people of Pickens are super nice, the climate is good, you are close to the mountains.  But you will pay.  Seniors, stay away.  There is nothing for you here in Pickens, except taxes.

R.M.


Dear Editor:

​Been keeping an eye on your coverage of county tax millage rate controversy.  A smarter guy than me once gave

 the advice that to convince someone of your point-of-view, the best thing to do is ask them a series of questions and lead them to the conclusion that you wish for them to make.  That may be the best way to examine a different viewpoint on why Pickens County homeowners aren't happy about property taxes; so here goes:

1) Has anyone else ever really looked at their tax bill?

2) What percentage of your tax bill is going to support the county government?

3) What percentage of your tax bill is going to support the county school system?

4) Are you aware that the locally-elected school board sets the millage rate for school taxes?

5) If approximately 3/4 of our tax bill is going to support the school system, why are you yelling at the county commissioners and not even grumbling at the school system?

6) How many concerned citizens were expressing their opinions at the last school board meeting?

7) Is the school system such a Sacred Cow that no one even dares to examine their spending?

It's kind of funny to see articles in your paper about people outraged at what they consider wasteful spending alongside articles about new computers (that get stolen) and new software (that doesn't work) and new buses (that cost more than your house) and new administrators (that make a whole lot more than almost anyone else in the county) and new programs and new....

T.B.


Dear Editor,

This is addressed to the Pickens County Commissioners who recently voted to increase the property taxes by 5.56 percent against almost unanimous opposition against raising them.  How is it that only property owners have to pay these taxes, as though property ownership was a privilege granted by the government rather than an inalienable right from our Creator?  Why don't you come up with some scheme whereby non-property owners have to pay their fair share of these taxes, including the school tax?  The school tax is another issue that needs to be addressed and resolved to relieve all seniors on fixed incomes from having to pay.  Retired seniors are being severely stressed from every direction, from inflationary food prices, to increases in insurance costs, to increased taxes.  They are increasingly having to consider giving up their homes and other critical items to finding some low-cost means of survival.  Very few seniors have any means of increasing their incomes to meet such demands.  The school tax should be apportioned across anyone and everyone who has children in the public school system.  After moving to Pickens from a county that exempted seniors, and having paid these taxes for fifty years, I find it more than ridiculous and heartless that I am required to continue paying them.

​W.P.


Dear Editor,

I am not a member of Pickens Seniors for Change group, but I find it offensive to see them attacked as being selfish and wanting to evade taxes.  What they want is the same respect and consideration given seniors in many counties across Georgia and the nation.  They want a break on educational property tax.  Of course working families would pay more during their working years, but they will benefit when they become seniors.  It might be harder on the working poor, but think how hard it is on the non-working poor?  I'm sure I am not the only person to know of a struggling senior family or widow on Social Security.  One can argue against a tax break on other grounds, but don't stoop to attacking the character of those who want what many other seniors in Georgia already get.  As for the "inconsiderate" ad submitted by Pickens Seniors for Change, I think it makes perfect sense.

I know there are seniors out there that are well-prepared for their retirement years.  I know many of you don't mind paying higher taxes.  If your conscience won't let you accept a property tax break, write a check to your favorite charity, give it back to the school board, or JUST DON'T SIGN UP FOR THE EXEMPTION.

A.R.