Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Rossville residents took turns walking up to the podium to voice their opposition to a city-proposed millage rate increase during the second of three public hearings Aug. 30 inside the packed city courtroom. City employees also voiced their opposition to possible cuts that could result from the millage rate being voted down.
The third and final public hearing on the proposed budget is set for Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. inside the Rossville Courtroom. If the proposed rate passes, the city’s millage rate will go up 3.65 mils, from 9.035 to 12.69 mils.
“If this [millage rate] increase happens, then Rossville’s taxes will be the highest in North Georgia,” said Rossville resident Travis Poole. “People may move out of Georgia into Tennessee to avoid income tax and property taxes. I would like to volunteer my expertise to the city to help with the budget.”
He suggested that the city raise deductibles on employee health insurance instead of raising residents’ millage rate. He said the measure could save the city money on health premiums. Rossville Councilwoman Cindy Bradshaw said the city has not budgeted for health insurance premium increases, but based on news reports she knows that insurance will be going up, putting the city in the negative.
“Cutting our benefits and what we make is wrong,” said Rossville patrolman Chad Payne, who also volunteers as a city firefighter. “There are two things between alive and in the grave and that’s a first responder. We don’t make a whole lot; $32,000 is not a lot for me. I’ve had people approach me to hire me. Rossville is my family. I love each and every one of you. We would stand in front of a guy trying to kill you. We would do it in a heartbeat.”
Rossville Police Det. David Scroggins said he does not use the city health insurance plan but is opposed to premiums going up for those that do.
“I am retired from two places already, so what happens does not affect me personally,” he said, adding that he can retire again at anytime. “But you made an agreement with these guys. None of them [police officers] make much money. They barely get by. If you bump up insurance, you take money out of their pocket. Keep the promise you made to the employees. You made an agreement with them and you need to stick by it.”
Payne said the city’s first responders go on 600 calls per year. The Fire Department’s 12 volunteer firefighters are there every time the pager goes off, he said.
“We have 1.8 square miles and three fire trucks, that’s too many,” said Rossville resident Charles Wilson. “No offense to the Fire Department, because they do a good job.”
He said he thinks it’s more important to keep police officers than a library. Poole pointed out that if the Rossville Library does not receive the necessary funding, local citizens could subscribe to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to receive free books for their children to read.
Wilson said the city’s crime statistics have not gone down. Reading statistics found at city-data.com/Rossville, he said that in 2009 the city had three robberies, 20 assaults, 70 burglaries, 147 thefts and nine auto thefts. In 2010 the city had one rape, five robberies, 32 assaults, 58 burglaries, 119 thefts, 18 auto thefts and one arson, he said.
“It’s time for a reality check,” he said. “We don’t have that many residents. Is there any chance you will reverse the budget? Can we sell the city sweeper since it’s not being used?”
JoAnn Shoemake said she is embarrassed to tell people she lives in Rossville.
“Because of the taxes I am ashamed to live here,” she said. “We have so many empty buildings in Rossville. Since we live on South Missionary Ridge we pay more taxes than everyone else. That should not be. Everyone should pay the same amount of taxes across the board.”
Her husband, Ron Shoemake, estimated that instead of paying his previous 2011 amount of $700 in property taxes and $200 in auto taxes that he will have to pay $1,247 in taxes in 2012.
“You might want to look at surrendering your city charter,” he said.
Rossville resident Ed Novak said he would like to form a citizens’ Rossville Budget Committee to help the City Council with the budget.
“I think we had excellent suggestions [at the budget hearing],” said Bradshaw. “We need to go back to the table and cut.”