In a conversation this past Monday with Emanuel County Administrator Guy Singletary, the Forest Blade asked for updates on several items of interest, not the least of which was the reported millage rate increase anticipated for the upcoming tax year. Singletary opened the book on the county’s financial position which appears to be on sound footing. “The tax digest for Emanuel County is again up by a respectable amount which would indicate that the county continues to grow.” That’s the good news. The not so good news is that inflation, the tight job market, and energy policies have all teamed up to make it more expensive to run Emanuel County.
The Administrator went on, “Our budget is right on track. We are right where we should be, but just like with your household expenses, we are seeing increases in operating costs that we have never seen before, and it is costing the county considerably more money to operate today than it did last year. Fuel, equipment breakdowns and repairs, utilities, facility management, everything we do and use has gone up due to inflation. But the most severe problem is making sure we don’t lose our quality people, and unfortunately some have already left for higher paying jobs.” From the Sheriff’s Office to all the Courthouse offices, as well as the Tax Commissioner and others, the salary issue is worrying all department heads. Sheriff Brewer is concerned that his deputies start out at a lower pay scale than Jenkins or Candler County. “We are asking these folks to go out there and put their life on the line every day for our safety. I just don’t see how we can tell them they should work for less than what the other counties around us pay.” Other department heads echo the Sheriff’s concern for hanging on to their good, trained personnel.
To provide for a determination of property taxes for the coming year, the county commission projects what county operating expenses will be and what the millage rate must be set at to provide that portion of revenue. Singletary believes a preliminary figure of a 1.3 mill increase should be proposed. From all appearances, the county has a steady, conservative plan for continued growth and building. As long as that combines with a vigorous hand to control spending, the result justifies a common sense adjustment
to any operating budget. Any tax increase is not what the taxpayer wants to hear, but in the long run, you get what you pay for, and eventually, a motivated and fairly compensated employee might be the best way of all to keep future taxes down.