The Commerce News
December 27, 2000
Some Room For
Improvement In The New Year
It is time once again to welcome in a new year. I don't care
what you've heard, Jan. 1 marks the beginning of the new millennium.
Not that it makes a difference. With no Y2K (remember that) to
worry about, with all of the celebration about entering the 21st
century all gone, all we have left is to celebrate the arrival
of a new year.
Aside from an all-night party and a morning of college football
bowl games, what we get from the typical new year observance
is a rash of "resolutions" about change.
Businesses take inventory as their tax year ends, both to satisfy
the government and to know where they stand. Most of us can benefit
from an annual and frank evaluation of ourselves too, and if
that isn't impetus for change, we're in trouble.
My brother-in-law, an engineer by trade, is big on planning and
evaluating, and he would say that one needs to constantly measure
where one is against where one planned to be. He would favor
annual alterations of course as needed to meet goals.
But there is more to life than meeting career or financial goals,
and a fair assessment taken annually can help bring us back to
the track we know we should take. What better time to take on
a personal self-evaluation and plan corrective action than at
the beginning of a new year.
The options are limitless. For example:
·Attitude: Most of us can stand improvement in the way
we approach our jobs, our families and our commitments. Anger
toward work or family builds stress in everyone, but particularly
in the person holding the resentment. If you hate someone, more
harm is being done to you than to the one you so dislike.
·Commitments: Be they family, church or work, most people
can do better. When we fail to live up to expectations, we are
short-changing those things that should be most important to
us. This year might be a good time to dedicate more of ourselves
to our family, church or some other worthy commitment.
·Leisure time: Use it better this year. Some of us take
too much, some too little. You work hard, so you need time to
do the things you really enjoy. A lot of people have tons of
hobbies, but never allocate themselves time to enjoy them.
·Count your blessings: Make 2001 a year of thanksgiving.
Look for those blessings. Enjoy that sunrise, stop and smell
the rose, enjoy the kids, pet that faithful dog that meets you
every day when you slog home from work. Life is full of treasures,
some huge, some tiny, and the more you look for them, the more
·Read more: Whether it's from newspapers, magazines, books
or off the Internet, make time to read. I promise you that the
Commerce Public Library can outfit you with books that are far
more entertaining and informative than what you'll find on 56
channels of cable.
·Abandon the talk shows: Most talk shows on radio and
TV are aimed at making you angry. There's enough anger out there
without specifically cultivating it. Stay away from Bortz, Limbaugh,
Springer, etc. If you spend a lot of time in your car, try books
on tape or listen to National Public Radio.
There you have it. Happy New Year.
The Jackson Herald
December 27, 2000
Open the door
for new teachers
Ever since Gov. Roy Barnes led the effort to abolish teacher
tenure, the Georgia Association of Educators teachers' union
has raised a hue and cry across the state.
Give us more "respect," they say in their public relations
news releases. According to the GAE, "respect" apparently
means that no public official should dare question the competence
The latest song being sung by this union is that the state has
a teacher shortage that can only be solved by higher pay and
an earlier retirement.
"Who will teach our children?" asks one recent new
release from the group. "We must act now to save the education
Well, we have one solution to the teacher shortage, but we don't
think the GAE will like it - make it easier for career professionals
to enter the teaching profession.
The truth is, there are many well-educated professionals who
would enter the teaching profession if they didn't have to fool
with the Mickey Mouse education courses currently required.
Why shouldn't a professional chemist be allowed to teach a high
school chemistry class?
Why shouldn't a business person be allowed to teach a high school
The irony of the situation is that these professionals can teach
at most colleges in the state without having to get a certificate
that says they are an "educator." Yet these same people
aren't allowed into our high schools, middle schools or elementary
schools unless they go back to school themselves to learn education
Of course, the GAE wouldn't like the idea of tearing down that
barrier, just like they don't want merit pay or incentives to
lure specalized teachers into the profession. All that group
wants is to shelter its members from any change in the status
We believe that during the upcoming legislative session, Gov.
Barnes should begin opening the doors in Georgia to this huge
pool of potential teachers that are currently being shut out
of the system. Allow professionals to enter our schools and teach
the subjects they know best.
And while you're at it, governor, tell the self-serving GAE to
take a hike.
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
December 27, 2000
Taxes grow as
OK, so our tax rates have dropped dramatically. Every local government
lowered its millage rates this year except for Maysville, which
has not yet set its rate. (It's expected to stay the same at
Of course, that doesn't mean the taxes you pay will fall. If
the value of your property increased more than the millage rate
dropped, you'll still pay more taxes. The average overall tax
decrease this year was around 31 percent, so if your assessments
went up more than 31 percent, you'll pay more taxes. If your
assessments rose less than 31 percent, you'll pay less taxes.
But even more than the assessments was the impact new growth
had on the county's tax digest. That was especially true in the
City of Jefferson, where the tax digest rose a whopping 42 percent
over last year. Over a five-year period, Jefferson's tax digest
has gone up 163 percent, largely from additional industrial,
commercial and residential growth.
For general city operations, however, the total property taxes
taken in by the city have gone up only 123 percent, meaning that
the city's growth is paying for itself, so far. (A historical
note: for the first time ever, Jefferson will take in over $1
million in local taxes this year. Five years ago, the city took
in less than a half-million dollars.)
For the Jefferson City School System, the situation is similar.
The school's digest has gone up a dramatic 166 percent over the
last five years, while its net property tax income, not counting
bond taxes, rose only 149 percent. If you include bond taxes,
the city school system property tax income rose 157 percent,
still below the tax digest growth rate.
What all of this means for Jefferson is that the town's growth
continues to outpace the level of property taxes needed to pay
for that growth. A major contributing factor to that has been
the growth in sales taxes which, to some extent, offsets the
need for higher property taxes. (Another historical note: for
the first time ever, taxes levied for the Jefferson City School
System topped $2 million this year.)
If Jefferson could develop its sales tax base by attracting more
retail stores, that would also help offset the need for property
On a side note, the new census numbers are set to be released
later this week. That will affect us not only politically, but
also in how sales tax funds are divided between incorporated
and unincorporated areas of the county.
One of the major factors in this year's drop of property tax
rates was the five-mill decrease in county government taxes.
But get ready for the rate to go up again next year. To finance
the tax decrease, the county is using up much of its reserves.
Next year, the rate will have to climb dramatically to keep county
That has angered some of the new incoming county commissioners,
who believe the outgoing BOC played politics with the tax rate
in order to make the new board look bad next year. Politically,
the new board can't oppose the tax decrease on the record, but
some new BOC members are privately upset about the situation.
They know that it's a one-year deal and that next year they will
be the ones voting to raise taxes.
The biggest impact of the tax decrease may be the continued postponement
of building a new county courthouse. Jackson County needs a new
facility, but that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Some
of the new board members don't like the plans being considered
by the outgoing board anyway and that, along with the lack of
funds, will delay any further action on the issue for a while.
High on the agenda of the new BOC should be an effort to get
a better handle on the county's fire protection services. There
are too many fire districts with too much power to levy taxes.
For the most part, these fire district boards answer to no one.
Wouldn't it be better to levy one countywide tax rate and split
those funds among the different departments? Why in the world
does Jackson County need 10 fire tax districts?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
December 27, 2000
To Changes In New Year
Not that 2000 was a terrible year, but it will be good to welcome
a new year.
The new year brings a new county government locally and a new
president nationally. It brings opportunity for improvement
and uncertainty about the future.
Locally, the biggest challenge will be for the new five-member
board of commissioners to settle in, become familiar both with
how the government operates and their own power and responsibility.
There will undoubtedly be some wrangling among the commissioners,
particularly about hiring a county manager, which will be the
board's next biggest challenge.
The transition will affect all levels of government. Any competent
manager will want to make changes, some of which will ruffle
feathers and cause dissent. And the manager, not the chairman
of the board of commissioners, will be responsible for the day-to-day
operations. Chairman Harold Fletcher may have a big job, but
he has no more power or authority than the other four commissioners.
It may take some time before that reality sinks in.
Expect some controversy, count on lively discussions and sharp
disagreements as personalities and politics clash. Jackson County's
government faces a period of adjustment and evolution that probably
won't be pretty, the end result of which should be government
managed more efficiently.
Nationally, George W. Bush will find that, even after the extended
count in Florida, winning the presidency is easier than being
president. His challenge will be to build the coalitions necessary
to get legislation through Congress, where his strongest opposition
may come from the right wing of his own party. His touted ability
to get along with different factions may be his greatest asset.
America faces challenges at home and abroad. Bush and his administration
must reach a consensus on the size and role of the military,
must face a slowing economy, work a compromise with Democrats
in Congress over his proposed trillion dollar tax cut and continue
to balance the budget.
All this he must do with a sharply divided House and Senate,
which means Bush must have cooperation from Democrats and Republicans
alike. While it may seem logical that philosophically opposed
politicians should be able to function in the many areas where
there is little disagreement, that is not necessarily the way
of Washington, DC. For the good of the country, politicians from
both parties must put country before politics, service before
This is a tall order, but the beginning of a new year is a time
for optimism. We can see what is possible if our public servants
do what we elected them to do, and the opportunities are unlimited.
Just how our local and federal governments conduct themselves
will soon be evident. Hopefully, the new year will bring progress,