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Political Debates
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It was standing room only last Thursday night at the final public hearing on the proposed tax increase. Many residents spoke out against the increase saying the county needed to make more departmental cuts.
The Dade County Commission held the third and final public hearing on the proposed tax increase last Thursday and while the first two had small attendance this one was standing room only.

Local residents started arriving well before the 6 p.m., meeting time and by the time County Executive Ted Rumley called the meeting to order additional chairs had been brought in and the walls were lined with people standing. Some residents were in the hallways and standing outside as the meeting started.

As the meeting started County Executive Ted Rumley gave a quick overview of the work the Commission and other elected officials had done to trim the budget to the current level. He also pointed out the 2007 tax increase was 45.07 percent, larger than the one currently proposed.

It was pointed out the digest is larger so this increase will bring in more revenue than the previous one.

The first to speak was Ben Brandon who was County Executive at the time of the 2007 increase. He pointed out that this increase was like the one in 2007 but different. This increase has apparently caught commissioners by surprise while in ’07 everyone knew it was coming for some time.

Brandon pointed out that in early July a slight increase was mentioned and now we are being hit with a 44 percent increase.

Rumley pointed out that the tornado’s three years ago and the flooding in the north end of the county two years later was a real hit to the county and the reserve fund was used to help out during those times.

“We tried to show compassion for the citizens by holding the line and using reserve funds to help out,” Rumley said.

One man who spoke said people don’t have any more income than six or seven years ago and its taking everything for gas, food and keeping a roof over their heads. Adding taxes is just robbing people, he said.

Nathan Hurst stated that the man who spoke before him was worried about not being able to keep his house. “Somebody must do something, these are trying times on all sides and I expect the County to reduce expenditures,” Hurst said. He added that everyone has had to cut their personal budgets and the County needs to do the same.

Rumley said an audit of each department was planned to determine the number of people each office needs to operate. This will give the Commission a better idea of who might be overstaffed he said. Several in the audience stated that was something that should have been done years ago.

George Walden spoke of discrepancies in property values. “I pulled some tax records today and found some people with more property paying less than some with less property,” he said.

Greg Smyth addressed the Commission and suggested they need to look five and 10 years down the road and have a plan in place. “This is going to be a train wreck if we don’t plan,” he said.

Referencing the town of Opp, Ala., he suggests that Dade County could be like that in a few years if we don’t plan and grow. Opp is for the most part a dead town with few businesses left and a not so bright future.

Billy Combs stated that property on each side of him had a different values and his was higher than both. Everyone needs to sell and go to Alabama if this tax increase is approved he suggested.

Many more people spoke during the two–hour plus meeting and just about all had the same message for the Commissioners – don’t approve this increase.

The meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. but residents continued to express their concern over the proposed increase.

The Commission approved the Board of Education millage rate of 15.128 mills, down from 15.157 last year and then County Executive Ted Rumley asked for a motion on the proposed county’s three mill increase.

Commissioner Rick Breeden said he didn’t feel qualified to vote on the issue being a four-month commissioner.

After several minutes Rumley again ask for a motion.

Commissioner Allen Bradford said. “This was a very tough decision, we are dealing with people’s lives and I would like to hear from others before I make my decision,” he added.

After several other residents addressed the Commission, most in opposition to the increase, Rumley again asked for a motion to approve the increase.

Again he was met with silence, as none of the Commissioners present were willing to make the motion for the tax increase.

Commissioner Scottie Pittman was on vacation and unable to attend the meeting.

After several attempts and no motion was made the issued died.

Rumley then ask the elected officials in attendance what they could do to trim expenses and Kathy Page, Jane Moreland and Ray Cross all indicated they would do whatever is necessary.

Monday morning the Commission was to begin work on the budget, looking for additional cuts.

Visitor Comments
Submitted By: P B SHAEFFER, III Submitted: 8/10/2014

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