The city of Brooklet will hold a series of public hearings this month regarding a proposed tax increase of over 32 percent.
Mayor William Hendrix said the reason for the proposed increase is because growth in the city has slowed, and revenues do not meet expenses.
“We haven’t had a tax increase in 10 to 15 years,” he told the Statesboro Herald. If there had been smaller, more gradual increases over those years, the change would not appear so drastic, he said.
The first public hearing on the matter will be held Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Brooklet City Hall on Church Street. A second public hearing will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 17, and a final public hearing will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 19, before the city council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m., during which council members expect to take a vote on the matter.
The proposed millage rate would increase by 2.132 mills, making the new rate 8.696 mills, meaning an increase in property taxes of over 32 percent.
For a person owning a home with fair market value of $125,000, this means $106.60 more in taxes. The rate for a non-homestead property valued at the same price is the same, according to information supplied to the Statesboro Herald by the Brooklet City Council.
Brooklet City Council member and mayor pro-tem Randy Newman did not return calls Thursday and Friday seeking comment on the proposed tax increase. Councilman William Griffith, reached by phone Thursday, would not comment on the issue, stating he did not “have the time” to discuss the proposed tax increase. Councilman Greg Schlierf was out of town, and although he did respond to the Statesboro Herald via e-mail, he did not address the tax increase issue, stating he would be available for future comments next week.
Councilman Jim Stanoff provided the Statesboro Herald a copy of a letter issued to Brooklet residents addressing the proposed increase. The letter outlined several points of interest involving city matters, and listed the city’s water system as being one major point of concern when it comes to finances.
Signed by Hendrix, the letter said the tax increase is necessary due to slowed growth and revenues, and that depending in water system revenues is dangerous in that the funds could legally be taken for bonds and debt repayment.
If that happened, there would be no funds to operate and maintain, much less make emergency repairs to the water system, the letter stated.
A water capital fund fee, which is included in residents’ water bills, has raised $10,000. That money is to be used to purchase a generator to ensure Brooklet’s water supply remains flowing in case of emergencies such as the recent power outages caused by hurricanes, according to the letter. Also, Brooklet will soon move to a money-saving system where meters are read by radio.
Hendrix said raising taxes is not a popular move, but it can’t be helped. In the letter to citizens, he said the “last thing council wanted to do was raise taxes.”
The proposed increase would mean between $60,000 and $80,000 more annually for the town, he said.
Money is needed for maintenance, repairs, improvements to infrastructure such as sidewalks and water pipes, which are ancient, he said. “We’ve been putting Band-Aids on them and just need to fix them.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.