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Posted: September 11, 2009 12:30 a.m.

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Proposed millage rate increase voted down unanimously

The Social Circle City Council unanimously voted not to increase the millage rate at the monthly council meeting on Tuesday night.

More than 100 people crowded into the council chamber to hear the council's verdict, leaving most of the crowd standing, and some backed out the door.

Before the council voted on the issue, resident Lurie Maddox presented the council with a list of votes that he collected from several hundred members of the community, whom he had polled in various places, such as the post office and on the street. According to Maddox’s survey, none of those polled supported the increase.

An unofficial vote was also tallied of the citizens present at the meeting. None voiced their approval of the millage hike.

After this, the council voted unanimously not to increase the rate.

The proposed increase was introduced by the Social Circle Development Authority, and it would have raised the millage rate by one mill, from 7.411 to 8.411, generating an additional $154,000. For a home valued at $100,000, the increase would have cost the taxpayer $39.88. According to the council, the average residential property of Social Circle is valued at $85,000.

The plan had been to use the revenue from the increased millage rate to secure 185 acres of property along the CSX railroad on West Hightower Road. The city would buy the land through a bank and would use the revenue only to pay interest on the property until a company then purchased it from the city.

The Downtown Development Authority met with the Walton County Development Authority in early September to discuss a possible collaboration between the two to purchase the land. No agreement was reached.

Mayor James Burgess liked the ideas proposed by the Development Authority but agreed with the residents that it would be a poor time to make such an investment.

"It was a good concept to have land bank properties," Mayor James Burgess said. "The timing was just bad. No one likes to see taxes increase in the best economic times — and these are not the best economic times. Our citizens told us not to raise taxes, and we’re trying our best to respond to the citizens."

Maddox was not surprised by the vote. "They didn’t have a choice," he said. "They want to be elected again."

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