After reading an article on property values continuing to fall in most major cities I took a look at Henry County to see what I might find. Lo and behold there’s all kinds of information in the internet where one can find whatever they wish, in this case information on property values and taxes.
As we all know the values of homes have fallen dramatically and we are seeing prices plunge from highs just a few years earlier. My own house has gone down 5% a year over the last 4 years according to the county. The reality is the rate is more like -8.7% a year. I may appeal the assessment next year if it does not reflect the current market value.
Over at www.tax-rates.org I find that Henry has “one of the highest median property tax rates in the United States, and is ranked 539th of the 3145 counties in order of average property taxes.” That means we pay a higher average property tax than 83% of all Americans.
The amount we pay is equal to 2.4% of our average incomes and puts the burden above 71% of all Americans.
The questions to be considered are why and are we better off the rest of America?
To answer the why we have to look at the last 25 to 30 years where the “leaders,” the elected commissioners failed to grasp planning and execution. Many actually took the stance if we don’t build infrastructure no one will come, we can be a rural community. These people failed us on infrastructure and making Henry a place for business.
Henry is not a haven for business and industry, even to this very day we have seen little effort other than big box distribution centers. Again that flows back to our commissioners not being active and giving direction.
Ask yourself if you are better off, you know the answer. We cannot lay the blame totally on the commissioners; the Obama economy and big spenders in DC (both Republican and Democrat) have caused the environment to be what it is, but it is no excuse for the last 25 years.
Henry County politics is a popularity contest and never about solutions. It always has been and most likely that is what elections are about. You vote for someone you like. If you take time to learn about those who seek office and what they can do you might change your mind and not elect the same to office year end and year out. Vote your pocket books and see what happens, surely it could not be any worse than it is now.
Other than looking for a better commissioner what else can do?
First improve the tax base by adding businesses. To do that you need to revamp the Development Authority giving it specific and detailed direction of what they are to accomplish. It should be dove tailed into what the State of Georgia is working on. This would also give a better working relation with the hunting dogs so when there is bird we can at least be in the hunt.
Second we need accountability, from commissioners to those running the Development Authority to leaders in the community with no one getting a free pass. Changes should be made in the Authority to reflect the new strategy. Hire someone that has the ability to work with the state and others throughout Georgia and not specialized in distribution centers.
Third, the county needs better efficiencies, more effective delivery of services and devise a means to lowering the millage rate. When speaking of the county and millage rates it is inclusive of the Board of Education (BOE.) Many forget the BOE has 23.6 mills or on average about two thirds our property taxes goes to them. Changes should be made there too.
At the BOE we need to have those board meetings made available online and through the local government cable channel. Too many dollars flow through the system. Not having this capacity where we can see how they operate and can be accountable is wrong. Again, we should make choices to that board that reflect competency.
Many of the BOE members have been there for ages and have not done much other than raise our rates. There are all kinds of justifications for raising property taxes for schools but the bottom line is this BOE has not reduced rates. Recall we pay a higher average property tax than 83% of all Americans and two thirds goes to the BOE.
The BOE for years has sat silently about the tax base not being broad enough. This body should be pushing harder than any to get changes at the Development Authority and BOC but they “have to work with the BOC and don’t need a battle.” It’s like an elementary PTO saying they cannot support the Ed SPLOST because it is controversial and might make parents uncomfortable, yet that school gets the direct benefit in the way of dollars.
Henry County has need for leadership transformation and implementation of a business growth policy so property owners can get tax relief. Instead of voting for the one with the nicest smile or friendliest disposition try voting your pockets. If you like the way the things are then just keep the same people in place.
For me, I would like to see the BOE at least elect two new members to the board this time. I would like to see one or two new members elected to the BOC. These new members should also bring with them new appointments to the Development Authority and make business development their main concern revamping or ridding the old model. The BOE should also press for changes to make Henry a better community for business by publicly pressing for accountability from their partners, the BOC.