Editor, In reference to an article published in the Bryan County News entitled “County finds consensus on tax increase,” I find the decision of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners to increase the millage rate on private real estate in Bryan County to be an unfortunate consequence of years of shortsighted policies in regards to economic growth in the county.
During the housing boom, when real estate clearly was overvalued, the taxes collected on real estate, even with the Homestead Exemption, left city and county coffers flush with revenue. Now, with real estate more reasonably priced, county commissioners point to the shortsightedness of the Homestead Exemption Act and how it has led to the drain on tax revenue needed to pay for predicable inflationary increases in government services and employees’ salaries.
I contest that it was not giving citizens a healthy tax break that ultimately resulted in a budgetary shortfall, but prohibitive governmental policies designed to protect the county’s “bedroom community” image. By stunting commercial and industrial economic growth, the county commissioners foolishly created an undiversified revenue stream funded mostly through real-estate taxation.
Perhaps commercial developments such as those currently rising in Pooler — e.g. Royal Cinemas & IMAX, Towne Center Water Park and the Outlet Mall of Georgia — would have offset real-estate tax reduction through sales tax increases. If the county commissioners had greater forethought and developed a more diverse revenue system, the citizens of Bryan County, instead of being forced to accept a millage-rate increase, currently would be enjoying the benefits of these commercial areas and well-funded county services while still enjoying the fact that they are paying the second-lowest millage rate in the area.
— Keith P. Sullivan, Richmond Hill