The Dougherty County Commission isn’t alone. They aren’t the only ones looking to raise the millage rate by any means. The City of Albany has as well. However, I think it may be time to look at some radical ideas to raise revenue that don’t involve us having to pay more in taxes.
First, we need to arrange for someone to have a chat with state court judges who levy fines for traffic violations inside of the County. You see, Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek relayed to me that citations in the County increased 27 percent, but the revenue from those fines actually fell 26 percent. Chief Cheek was going off of memory and did say that it’s possible that he has those actual numbers backwards, but the point remains the same. The DCPD wrote more tickets, yet there was actually less money to show for it.
The fault of that must lay at the feet of the state court judges who handle traffic cases outside of the city limits. They are the ones responsible for determining fines, and while I understand that times are tough, money has to be raised. Few will argue that those who break the law – and going over the speed limit is against the law – are the ones who should get the breaks. After all, if the revenue from traffic violators increased along with the increased number of citations, then the Dougherty County Commission wouldn’t be looking at the millage rate increases they are currently considering.
That’s not to say I don’t have suggestions for the County Commission. I have the most radical idea of all to raise revenue for them. It’s a little risky, but hear me out.
Not only should they not raise the millage rate, they should lower it.
People have moved to Lee County for two reasons. One is the school system, but the other is taxes. While we can do little about the schools in the short term, taxes are one we can address.
You see, Lee County has a lower millage rate, but higher property values, than Dougherty County. If the Dougherty County commission took the radical step of lowering the millage rate to below Lee County’s, then that might attract some folks to move back into Dougherty County.
When that happens, you will see property values increase, increased sales tax revenue, and more construction of new homes which will increase the tax base. Basically, by lowering the tax rate, you will actually increase revenue.
It’s not just houses either. I have known people to register vehicles in their parent’s name because said parent lived in Lee County. This millage increase doesn’t just impact real estate after all, but also vehicles, trailers, recreational vehicles, and so on. Those that can be registered in other counties often are as a means of bypassing Dougherty County’s taxes. Bringing those back into Dougherty County would do wonders to helping increase revenue.
None of this is going to happen overnight, and it would require some creative thinking by the Commission on how to work the budget in the mean time, but it will work. Albany and Dougherty County have been faltering for some time. At one point, it was believed that Albany would have reached 250,000 people by the mid 1980’s. Now, we find ourselves shrinking.
While recent weeks have brought good news by way of a new company moving to town, and another looking at a much larger operation – both of which will be contributing to the tax base – it’s not quite enough. We are desperate, and that means we need to try new and innovative ways of raising revenue. Lowering the millage rate, while pushing judges to impose tougher fines on speeders, may just do what we need it to do.