By LYDIA BERGLAR
A major topic of the June 1 meeting of the Dade County Board of Commissioners was property tax increases, appeals, and freezes. Before discussion of taxes began, topics from across the county were addressed.
Jamey Blevins reported on the historic courthouse project. One current piece of the project is finishing the existing hardwood, with the goal of retaining as much of the original wood as possible. Blevins reported that he had to move funds around, but the budget is still in good shape. “I did have to take $15,000 out of the contingency budget, but the overall budget did not increase. We still have a contingency of $105,000.”
County Executive Ted Rumley spoke in place of Judge Kerri Carter regarding a fingerprinting machine and process that is intended to speed up the process. The Dade County Sheriff’s Office will continue fingerprinting for gun checks and major cases, but the judge’s office will handle other cases.
The commission voted to update the drug/alcohol testing process for Federal Transit Administration employees. While federal guidelines now allow directly observed oral collection specifically for transgender and non-binary employees (as an alternative to directly observed urine collection), the board voted to use directly observed oral collection as the standard in Dade County.
Rumley recalled that in 2001, a male employee used a woman’s urine sample on the test. The test said that he was pregnant, and it was discovered that he used a vial around his neck to sneak the false sample in – evidence of the need for directly observed collection.
During the commissioner reports, Lamar Lowery, commissioner for District 1, reported that the 911 calls for May totaled 3,038:
- EMS: 192
- Fire & Rescue: 235
- Law Enforcement: 2,611
He added that the addition to Guinn Road is being worked on to fix the problem of residents being blocked in by trains. Clark Street is next in line.
Rumley added, “Since Wednesday of last week, a train has blocked [the road] four times, anywhere from two to four hours at a time.”
After reporting on electrical inspections, Phillip Hartline, commissioner for District 2, said, “For them to say we’re not growing at all…I still say the census is wrong because this shows every month we’re getting from ten to twenty inspections every month, all of them new construction.”
Robert Goff, commissioner for District 3, then brought up the issue of property taxes. He said tax notices were mailed the last week of May and “there’s 45 days for you to appeal those taxes…Please go by the office. June 26 is the last day you can file an appeal…The real bill comes out in October.”
Rumley added, “This is appealing the value of your property…I would go talk to Paula Duvall and the people in her office first and express your concerns…I’ve seen some really big numbers that have increased. I think she told me that most of the houses went up $25 a square foot. I know mine went up tremendously.”
Rumley continued, “Don’t be bashful [about appealing]…I’ll walk down there with you and she can show you how they come up with this number…We work for you, but we’re tax payers too. I’m concerned with it. Someone said yesterday, there’s gotta be a line drawn somewhere. We’re looking at every avenue that we can as far as the governing authority to see what can be done.”
Lowery added that property tax freezes can be used to residents’ advantage. “Make sure you’re signed up for it, because if you signed up ten years ago like I did on my house, I’m locked in on that freeze. We did that because of people that were moving in…so you wouldn’t be priced out with a big development right beside you. There’s no age requirement.”
The commissioners mentioned that you can check values of surrounding properties at www.qpublic.net/ga/dade.
Melissa Bradford, commissioner for District 4, reported that Tire Amnesty day collected 1,700 tires. She reported that letters were sent to businesses notifying them of the new charge for dropping off cardboard.
In Rumley’s report, he said, “The school board is 70% of your taxes. The other portion is to run the county.”
Rumley then addressed the GA-299 at Highway 11 traffic congestion. “We get complaints all the time, but this is getting serious on this 299 traffic. Especially when the freeway’s shut down, it’s ridiculous.” He said that he and Lowery will be meeting with the area engineer from the Georgia Department of Transportation who has been to the location twice. “They’re gonna have to do something, a red light, or whatever. That is really a hot topic, especially on the north end. We are working on it, we’re on your side, trust me.”