published Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Catoosa County leaders reckless with tax dollars

Catoosa County Commissioners will meet today to consider a property tax hike of 1.519 mills to pay for an irresponsible budget which proposes to spend $2.2 million more than the county can afford.

It’s a tax increase that’s hard to justify.

After all, the county’s proposed budget is filled with a number of expenditures that could — and should — be trimmed before county leaders force taxpayers to shell out more of their hard-earned dollars. For example, the county plans to spend $819,000 funding nonprofits and economic development agencies. The proposed budget also calls for $30,000 to purchase new computer software and $26,000 to cover expanded phone and Internet service.

Most troubling, however, is the fact that the county leaders who plan to raise taxes on Catoosa residents are the same people who have spent citizens’ money mosty recklessly.

In the last year, Catoosa County commissioners attended lavish conferences at taxpayers’ expense in cities across Georgia, including Savannah, Macon, Athens and Atlanta. Those junkets included stays at swank hotels such as the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta and the Savannah Marriott Riverfront, where rooms cost well over $200 a night.

Commissioners frequently charged expensive steak and seafood dinners on county credit cards. Dewayne Hill was a primary culprit, charging a $49.46 steak and shrimp meal at a pub in Atlanta, a $42.99 New York strip feast in Athens and a $42.94 oyster dinner in Savannah, according to county credit card statements.

Even Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton got in on the act. Helton frequently forced taxpayers to pay for his car washes. Helton charges car washes costing $10 or more to county credit cards every few weeks.

Rather than hiking taxes on county residents, Catoosa County leaders should first make cuts to unnecessary government outlays — starting with their own wasteful spending.

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