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Long County considering fee increases in upcoming budget
Commissioners agree on NO millage tax increase

The Long County Commissioners will be preparing their budget in the next few weeks for the new 2024-2025 fiscal year, which is set to begin July 1, 2024. At their meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Commission Chairman Robert Parker reviewed the effect of inflation on the county budget, which will call for increases in fees for services if they are to continue at their current delivery. All the commissioners agreed that the additional revenue needed to meet a balanced budget does not need to come from property owners, since all citizens utilize the roads, sanitation services, fire department, animal control, and recreation park.

Chairman Robert Parker said although some citizens may be quick to point out the cost of the new jail, and even with the jail debt, the County will be much better financially since the County has been paying other counties to house and feed inmates that is more costly than providing those services in-house. Also, with the growing population, Long County is in need of their own jail.

He further explained that Long does not have the retail businesses that provide sales taxes as other surrounding counties have, such as Liberty, Glynn, and Bryan. He compared Long with similar size counties in population and budgets, such as Pierce and Brantley.

"Also, although Long County is not legally required to provide a library, EMS, and fire department, we do so to provide for our citizens. As all of you know who visit the grocery store, inflation is tremendous, and it affects governments just like it does families. We are grateful that our department heads are keeping their budgets in line, but the cost of delivering services has steadily increased," said Parker.

"We have over 300 miles of dirt roads that we have to maintain," said Council Member John Boy Reddish, with cost of equipment and related repairs to maintain these roads increasing along with manpower.

"One of the high costs of services is sanitation, with the county price tag at $1.4 million a year, which is not being covered by the fees we currently charge, so this is something we need to pass on to those who receive these services," added Parker.

"We also provide a full-time fire department, which a lot of other counties do not. We have a large call volume with all the new homes in our county, and we may need to consider a 'fire fee' that many other counties assess residents. Our EMS service is yet another service we provide but are not required to do so," said Parker, but when someone needs an ambulance, the person does not want to have to wait on one from another county, especially in life and death situations.

"Unless we want to scale back on our services, we need to consider fee increases for fire, EMS, and sanitation," said Parker, with the general consensus to apply these alternative methods for funding the services without a millage increase. The current county millage is 14.738.

"We are unique geographically, and we cannot stop our growth. However, we don't have the retail stores to supply us with sales tax revenues, especially since it is only about seven miles away for our residents to shop at big grocery stores, retail shops, and restaurants in abundance," said Parker.

"We also have to consider a raise for our employees, since we don't want to lose them. They have been affected by inflation just as much or more so than the county," said Parker.

The commissioners will receive a proposed budget within the week, and a public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Tuesday, June 25, for public comments.